Investors in LINN Energy (NASDAQ: LINE ) have been rattled lately as bears have been bashing the company's units. To top it off, those units were hit again last week as rumors began to surface that the complex deal with its affiliate LinnCo (NASDAQ: LNCO ) to buy Berry Petroleum (UNKNOWN: BRY.DL ) was being delayed. The big concern is that the deal might fall apart, which would be a major blow to the company.
To alleviate these concerns the three companies put out a joint press release last week which updated investors on the timing of the deal. Instead of closing by June 30 as originally planned, the closing is being pushed back into the third quarter. One of the delays is due to the Registration Statement Form S-4 remaining under review by the Securities and Exchange Commission. LINN, LinnCo, and Berry needed to file a second amendment to that Form S-4, which was just filed June 4.
Once the registration statement is approved by the SEC it will bring LINN, LinnCo, and Berry one step closer to completing the $4.3 billion deal. Following that, investors of all three companies will need to vote on a number of items, including approving the deal. Once the deal is approved by investors, the companies can complete this multi-step process.
This is an important deal for LINN to close; not only is this the company's largest one so far, but it's the first time LINN has attempted to purchase a C-Corp. The company has made it clear that it intends to use LinnCo's shares as acquisition currency to pursue additional purchases of C-Corps in the future. If the deal derailed now it would certainly be a big setback for LINN's acquisition growth plans.
Not only that, but Berry Petroleum adds premium assets to LINN's portfolio. Berry has about 1.65 trillion cubic feet of natural gas equivalent of proved reserves. About 67% of its reserves is oil, 26% is natural gas, and the rest is natural gas liquids. Further, about half of Berry's production is in California, while just under 20% of its production is in the oily Uinta Basin, which is a new operating area for LINN. Finally, there is substantial upside to Berry's portfolio as probable and possible reserves are estimated at 3.8 trillion cubic feet of natural gas equivalent.
The current uncertainty in the market for LINN and LinnCo offers investors a pretty compelling buying opportunity. While the Berry deal is being delayed by a few weeks, I have no doubt that it will close. Once it does, LINN will have a better understanding of how to use the deal as a template to further consolidate mature oil and gas assets. As it does, the company can grow its secure – soon to be monthly – payout to investors.
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