UPDATE 2-Devon to buy GeoSouthern's Eagle Ford assets for $6 billion

Michael Erman
Wednesday, 20 Nov 2013 | 10:42 AM ET

(Adds comments, details about Blackstone exit, background)

Nov 20 (Reuters) - Devon Energy Corp will buy GeoSouthern Energy Corp's core assets in the Eagle Ford shale region of south Texas for $6 billion in cash, in a deal that looks to answer criticism about the company's lack of exposure to higher-margin oil.

The agreement to buy most of privately held GeoSouthern's assets is Devon's second-largest transaction in a month, as the Oklahoma City-based company seeks to revive investor interest in its shares.

The stock was up 2.6 percent at $64.39 in morning trading.

Devon Energy said Wednesday the assets it is buying have current production of 53,000 barrels of oil equivalent (BOE) per day over 82,000 net acres.

That's expected to grow at a compound annual rate of 25 percent over the next several years, reaching peak production of about 140,000 BOE per day, the company said. The GeoSouthern assets hold estimated risked recoverable resources of 400 million barrels of oil equivalent, most of which is proved reserves, it said.

Private equity firm The Blackstone Group, an investor in GeoSouthern, will sell its stake through the Devon deal, bringing in about $1.54 billion, Blackstone said.

Devon has been working for years to transform itself. In 2009, the company started selling international and offshore assets to focus on its North American operations.

That strategy left the company with a big exposure to lower-priced natural gas and natural gas liquids, causing the company's shares to underperform over the past two years.

Devon Chief Executive John Richels said on a conference call that the company was buying light-oil rich acreage in the best part of the Eagle Ford formation at a discount to the stock market valuation of similar assets.

"If there is one criticism of the company, it's that they don't have exposure to some of the fastest-growing unconventional plays like the Eagle Ford in Texas or the Utica in Ohio," Mark Hanson, oil company analyst with Morningstar in Chicago said after news about Devon's bid for the GeoSouthern assets first surfaced on Tuesday.

The GeoSouthern purchase could make up for some of those shortcomings, he said.

Last month, Devon agreed to combine most of its U.S. pipeline and processing businesses with those owned by Crosstex Energy Inc and Crosstex Energy LP and form a new infrastructure company.

(Additional reporting by Anna Driver in Houston; Editing by Nick Zieminski and Bernadette Baum)

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