Making Deals in Gold and Energy

frank-holmesNatural resources deals are on the upswing.

In the second quarter, there were 142 announced deals totaling $37 billion in the oil and gas sector – that’s the highest level of M&A activity in 18 months. In the same period late year, M&A deals were worth just $14 billion.

Gold-mining deals have also been robust. Merrill Lynch-Bank of America says there were 13 transactions during the second quarter. Add that to the 15 deals in the first quarter and you have a busy market.

PricewaterhouseCoopers says the deal count in oil and gas was up 27 percent compared to the first half of 2009.

Asset sales represented 85 percent of the transactions as companies prepare for regulatory changes following BP’s Gulf of Mexico spill, PwC says. Many companies are downsizing conventional assets and replacing them with unconventional plays.

North American shale gas deals represented $13 billion of the latest quarter’s deals, nearly half coming from Asian companies looking to gain expertise in order to eventually develop shale deposits at home.

On the gold side, the $8.7 billion Newcrest Mining-Lihir Gold deal represented the first merger between senior gold producers since 2006. The bulk of the transactions were smaller companies joining forces or mid-tier producers buying early-stage companies.

Merrill Lynch-BoA calls the gold-mining sector a “buyer’s market,” saying the average deal in the second quarter was completed at a discount of 25 percent or greater. This could present a good opportunity for cash-rich producers to snatch up cheap assets.

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The following securities mentioned in the article were held by one or more of U.S. Global Investors family of funds as of June 30, 2010: Lihir Gold.