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Private equity attracted to Oklahoma energy plays

The growing market for private equity investment in oil and natural gas companies is having a strong effect on the state’s energy industry.
by Adam Wilmoth Published: March 4, 2014

— Two years after selling the bulk of his company’s assets for $650 million, self-described serial entrepreneur Steve Antry is at it again.

The CEO of Tulsa-based Eagle Energy Exploration has returned to long-time backer Houston-based Riverstone Holdings LLC for a pledge of at least $300 million to hunt for oil and natural gas acreage to buy, develop and eventually sell.

Antry is one of the growing number of oil and natural gas entrepreneurs backed by more than 250 private equity firms nationwide. He spoke at the DUG (Developing Unconventional Gas) Mid-Continent conference in Tulsa on Monday

While private equity backers are looking at companies throughout the state, Antry said it is a very different kind of investor than the state saw three decades ago.

“It’s a very sophisticated investor today,” Antry said. “We have to justify every dollar we spend. It’s not like the ’80s when there was stupid money out there. This is very sophisticated money. They have ways to financially model everything. I’m a better oilman now because I’ve known Riverstone.”

The arrangement is good for the private companies funded by the investors, but it also is beneficial to Oklahoma.

While several local and regional companies have taken the lead in development of Oklahoma oil and natural gas assets, much of Wall Street’s attention has been on higher profile plays such as North Dakota’s Bakken and Texas’ Eagle Ford and Permian basins.

“If you’re a big public company, you can get a better valuation for your property from those sexier plays,” Antry said. “The Oklahoma plays are not the big plays. The economics are strong, but they’re not the big, sexy names. That leaves the Mid-Continent for local companies, which is just fine for us.”

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by Adam Wilmoth
Energy Editor
Adam Wilmoth returned to The Oklahoman as energy editor in 2012 after working for four years in public relations. He previously spent seven years as a business reporter at The Oklahoman, including five years covering the state's energy sector....
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