I have been commenting in our Newsletter, Facts & Rumors, that Halliburton – Baker Hughes could be trouble. The European Union has been asking for more details for months about the deal. The Department of Justice (DOJ) has been asking also for information. Yesterday, the DOJ finally sued to stop the deal.
The U.S. Department of Justice sued oilfield services firm Halliburton to stop its proposed acquisition of smaller rival Baker Hughes, citing antitrust concerns.
The firms, the second- and third-largest in the industry behind Schlumberger, saw their stock prices soar with the U.S. fracking boom of the past decade. But the share prices were crippled in the last 18 months by slumping oil prices.
The $35 billion deal, announced in November 2014, was scheduled to close last year, but it’s been delayed by U.S. antitrust regulators. In the meantime, the value of the deal has shrunk to roughly $25 billion, again due to slumping share prices.
Halliburton’s purchase of Baker Hughes was seen not merely as a move to bulk up, but to acquire the company’s research arm, proprietary technologies and patents.
Halliburton contractually must pay Baker Hughes $3.5 billion if the deal goes sour.
Did GE play a role?
Some people are wondering if GE had any influence in the DOJ’s decision. The scuttlebutt is that GE wanted the Halliburton-Baker Hughes deal to require the spinoff of more companies which GE would subsequently purchase giving it a stronger presence in the oil and gas industry.
I’ll be monitoring the news to see what action if Halliburton takes to challenge the DOJ. Stay tuned.