Could Origin Energy Ltd and Santos Ltd merge?


The Fairfax media is reporting that analysts at Credit Suisse are suggesting that a merger between energy giants Santos Ltd (ASX: STO) and Origin Energy Ltd (ASX: ORG) is a theoretical possibility as a result of the plunging energy price environment.

Both these energy giants are struggling under substantial debt piles after funding expensive east coast LNG projects that were planned at a time when the idea of the oil price tracking towards US$20 per barrel in 2016 would have seemed unthinkable.

Credit Suisse is theorising that Origin’s electricity retailing assets could be hived off, while substantial synergies and benefits could be derived as both businesses have large LNG gas projects on the east coast.

The analysts also reportedly claiming that more capital would be required for either business to grow on a standalone basis and this after Santos and Origin both independently raised $2.5 billion of additional equity in the second half of 2015.

Credit Suisse suggest a zero premium merger could be possible, although Origin looks in a marginally stronger position than Santos, as it is slightly less at the mercy of world energy prices.

The likelihood of any deal seems remote given that management at both businesses will probably prefer to look at the energy price falls as cyclical, while hoping for a price rebound over the medium term.

However, one of the biggest deals of 2015 was when Royal Dutch Shell announced its intention to merge with BG Group in a deal worth around $80 billion and more mega deals in 2016 are not out of the question.

Last year also saw the proposed merger of Woodside Petroleum Limited (ASX: WPL) and Oil Search Limited (ASX: OSH) fail to get off the ground after Woodside was accused of being unrealistic in its terms.

Santos was even the subject of a reported takeover offer for $6.88 per share in October 2015. The opaque nature of the bidder and its ‘highly conditional’ offer not failing to prevent a share price spike on the news which some investors took the opportunity to sell into, before the share price collapsed in half over the next three months.

Other big deals previously touted as part of a trend towards consolidation in the resources space include a bid by mining giant Glencore for either Rio Tinto Limited (ASX: RIO) or South32 Ltd (ASX: S32). Both these businesses have collapsed in value over the past year, which means they will be become increasingly affordable targets for larger bargain hunters.

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Motley Fool contributor Tom Richardson has no position in any stocks mentioned.

You can find Tom on Twitter @tommyr345

Unless otherwise noted, the author does not have a position in any stocks mentioned by the author in the comments below. The Motley Fool Australia has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy. This article contains general investment advice only (under AFSL 400691). Authorised by Bruce Jackson.

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