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Halliburton, Baker Hughes merger scrubbed

U.S. Justice Department, European Commission both expressed concerns over deal.

By Daniel J. Graeber
Halliburton, Baker Hughes merger scrubbed
Though Halliburton and Baker Hughes said they would cooperate with anti-trust authorities, the two companies decided not to move forward with a proposed merger. Photo by Christopher Halloran/Shutterstock

HOUSTON, May 2 (UPI) -- Effective April 30, a merger proposed in late 2014 between oil services companies Baker Hughes and Halliburton has been terminated, the companies announced.

"While both companies expected the proposed merger to result in compelling benefits to shareholders, customers and other stakeholders, challenges in obtaining remaining regulatory approvals and general industry conditions that severely damaged deal economics led to the conclusion that termination is the best course of action," Dave Lesar, chairman and chief executive officer of Halliburton, said in a statement Sunday.

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The U.S. Justice Department in early April said the proposed merger of the two companies would be unprecedented in its "scope of competitive overlaps and antitrust issues." Expressing its concerns earlier this year, the European Commission found only Baker Hughes, Halliburton and Schlumberger were able to provide necessary services to the industry, adding the merger of the former two would grossly inhibit competition from smaller potential market players.

When raised, the companies said they would cooperate with anti-trust authorities, but said the investigations into the merger had resulted in the wrong conclusion.

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Schlumberger, the world's largest oil field services company, this year outlined at least four separate mergers during the first quarter, including a $1.24 billion deal with Cameron International, a Houston-based maker of tools for oil field developers. Schlumberger's acquisitions dealt with smaller niche service companies rather than industry rivals.

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Halliburton and Baker Hughes unveiled plans to join forces in late 2014 as lower crude oil prices started to spill over into the economics of the upstream, or exploration and production, side of the energy sector. Baker Hughes in its weekly report for the industry recorded the sixth consecutive decline in exploration and productive activity in North America. Schlumberger characterized the overall industry decline as the sharpest in more than a decade.

Baker Hughes and Halliburton both said they maintained a solid footing as the price for crude oil recovers from a low mark in 2016 of below $30 per barrel. Both, however, also reported hefty losses for the first quarter.

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"While disappointing, Halliburton remains strong," Lesar said.

Halliburton said that, by Wednesday, it would pay $3.5 million in a termination fee to Baker Hughes.

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