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Shell sees leverage with BG grab

Megamerger could be bellwether deal in weakened energy market.

By Daniel J. Graeber

LONDON, April 8 (UPI) -- Shell gains leverage in the deepwater and liquefied natural gas market in its Wednesday bid for rival BG Group, a spokesperson for the Dutch supermajor said.

The board of directors at Shell and BG Group issued a joint statement Wednesday saying they've reached an agreement for the Dutch acquisition of its rival.

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The deal, valued at around $70 billion, is among the largest acquisitions since the Exxon Mobil merger was completed in 1999. It also comes at a time when most energy companies are streamlining capital expenses in a weak oil market.

"By combining BG's portfolio and skills set with Shell's capabilities, we can deliver a step change in the growth priorities for both of our companies," a Shell spokesperson said in response to email questions. "This means more deep water and more LNG -- plays where we have strong profitability and capabilities."

BG Group in a statement issued late Tuesday confirmed speculation it was in "advanced discussions" with Shell.

In January, BG announced it formed an alliance with contracting company KBR in an effort to cut costs in the low price environment. The following month, former Statoil Chief Executive Officer Helge Lund took over as the director of BG, saying the time was right for a change.

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BG last month started production from the Knarr field in the North Sea, a prospect with an estimated 80 million barrels of oil equivalent. The company is among the largest players, and most committed, in the Egyptian natural gas market.

Shell, meanwhile, is gearing up for drilling operations in the arctic waters off the coast of Alaska. The company already devoted about $5 billion and more than eight years of work on the campaign.

The acquisition could be a sign of things to come in an industry struggling to cope with low oil prices. BP, dealing with the added strain of costs tied to the Deepwater Horizon tragedy, maintains it's coping adequately in the current market environment.

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