Houston firm buys Antero assets

A Houston-based oil and gas company has identified itself as the upcoming buyer of Antero Resources’ Piceance Basin assets, and says it expects to be more active in developing them than Antero has been in recent years.

“We didn’t buy it to sit on it,” Don Simpson, vice president of business development for Ursa Resources Group II LLC, said of the company’s pending Piceance Basin acquisition.

Antero announced the sale on Monday, but didn’t identify the buyer. The deal is expected to close in mid-December, Simpson said.

The deal is for $325 million in cash plus the assumption of future gas transportation obligations pegged as being a $91 million liability. Antero also will gain from cash proceeds of about $100 million related to hedge contracts locking in certain gas prices.

Ursa’s purchase includes about 61,000 lease acres.

Antero says it wants to focus on projects in the eastern United States. Simpson said Antero’s efforts there have left its Piceance Basin holdings as a kind of “stepchild,” whereas they will be a core asset for Ursa that it plans to work hard on developing.

He added, “We think the price of gas is rather low … and we’re buying those assets to drill more wells and hope that the gas prices come up.”

At the same time, Simpson said he’s aware of the issues Antero has been facing in places such as Battlement Mesa and Silt Mesa where residents have been concerned about drilling impacts.

“We want to make sure that their concerns are heard and looked after,” he said.

Simpson plans to speak to Garfield County commissioners at the start of their meeting Tuesday morning and attend the Battlement Mesa Oil & Gas Committee meeting at 3:30 that afternoon.

Ursa’s management team is made up primarily of former Shell employees, including Simpson, he said. It is privately held, being owned by its management team and by Denham Capital Management. Denham’s investors include Harvard University’s pension and endowment funds.

According to an announcement on Ursa’s website Wednesday, its private equity investment was increased to $400 million “in conjunction with ongoing business needs.”

Ursa has holdings in several states. The company formed last year after a previous company with a similar name and the same principals sold oil and gas assets it had developed in North Dakota and Montana.

The company plans to open a Denver office and maintain Antero’s offices near its fields, and may hire some of Antero’s local field personnel, Simpson said.


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