January 18, 2019 / 5:51 PM / 9 months ago

Exclusive: Canadian oil firm MEG says Husky balked at friendly takeover talks

WINNIPEG, Manitoba (Reuters) - Canadian oil producer MEG Energy Corp’s (MEG.TO) CEO invited his Husky Energy Inc (HSE.TO) counterpart this month to negotiate a friendly takeover of MEG, but Husky did not follow up, MEG’s vice president of investor relations John Rogers said on Friday.

FILE PHOTO: An oil pump jack pumps oil in a field near Calgary, Alberta, Canada on July 21, 2014. REUTERS/Todd Korol/File Photo

Husky abandoned its hostile bid for MEG on Thursday, saying it could not win sufficient MEG shareholder support after Alberta’s government ordered production cuts to reduce a crude glut.

MEG’s chief executive officer, Derek Evans, phoned Husky CEO Rob Peabody in early January and invited him to visit and discuss a possible friendly deal to sell MEG, Rogers said.

“We approached them and said, ‘You know with a little bit of negotiation, I’m sure we can find a way out of this,’” Rogers said, recalling MEG’s invitation. “They never got back to us.”

Husky spokesman Mel Duvall said its offer expired without the minimum tender condition being met.

MEG produced an estimated 88,000 barrels of oil per day in 2018, according to GMP First Energy, equal to about 40 percent of Husky’s production. The company, whose investors include Chinese state-owned oil producer CNOOC Ltd (0883.HK), is the largest pure-play Canadian heavy oil producer.

Publicly, Husky, whose majority investor is Hong Kong tycoon Li Ka-shing, continued to urge MEG shareholders to tender to its offer leading up to its expiry this past Wednesday.

Husky was expected to secure over 50 percent support from MEG shareholders, sources told Reuters and other media outlets on Wednesday. It was expected to consider extending its offer to win the required two-thirds.

But Husky allowed the offer to expire, citing Alberta’s curtailment orders and a lack of progress expanding pipelines as recent negative developments. It has not said publicly how much support it received.

The company’s decision to abandon its bid “may dent its credibility,” RBC analyst Greg Pardy said in a note.

MEG had invited Husky in November to sign a confidentiality agreement and enter its data room, Rogers said. Husky did not take MEG up on it, although several other companies did, he said.

No rival bids were made.

MEG’s spurned invitations suggest that Husky’s commitment to the deal may have wavered after conditions in Canada’s oil patch deteriorated. Discounts on Canadian oil hit record-high levels in October, leading the Alberta government to order the curtailments, which Husky has criticized.

Rogers said he did not believe MEG was in play any longer, despite a 36 percent selloff of its stock on Thursday that could make the heavy oil producer a bargain buy.

Reporting by Rod Nickel in Winnipeg, Manitoba; Editing by Phil Berlowitz, Susan Thomas and Leslie Adler

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