Since the beginning of the year, analysts have been asking "WWEMB?" -- What Would ExxonMobil
For most other companies, $41 billion is a lot of money. ExxonMobil is not most other companies. With 3.27 billion shares held in treasury as of Sept. 30, the company is using just a fraction of its buying power here.
That's not to say this won't be a transformative acquisition for ExxonMobil. Beyond the 10% boost to the firm's resource base, Exxon is truly taking the plunge into unconventional resource plays. XTO has a strong foothold in each of the most promising shale plays in America, including the Marcellus, the Haynesville, and the Bakken.
Prior to the late 2008 commodity bust, XTO, Chesapeake, and other independents were leveraging up to make big shale play acquisitions. Chairman Bob Simpson described this period as "a time to grab hold or sit and miss." Some majors got in on the act by either joint venturing with an independent, or swallowing someone whole, as in the case of Royal Dutch Shell and Duvernay Oil.
Exxon was notably absent from the domestic frenzy, though it did grab a large position in Canada's Horn River Basin, and stake out prospective shale gas acreage over in Europe. As recently as this summer, my colleague David Lee Smith thought Exxon might go it alone. EOG Resources
Now that the amazing shale race has gone global, time is of the essence. Exxon has ConocoPhillips
Fool contributor Toby Shute doesn't have a position in any company mentioned. Check out his CAPS profile or follow his articles using Twitter or RSS. The Motley Fool owns shares of Chesapeake and XTO, and has a disclosure policy.