Privately held Rice Energy prepares IPO -sources


By Michael Erman and Olivia Oran and Soyoung Kim

NEW YORK, Oct 16 (Reuters) - Privately-held natural gasexploration and production company Rice Energy is planning foran initial public offering that could value the company at asmuch as $2.5 billion, according to people familiar with thematter.

Rice Energy, which was founded by a former BlackRock Inc portfolio manager and his children, has already filed aconfidential registration statement with U.S. regulators, threeof the people said, asking not to be identified because thematter is not public.

It has tapped Barclays PLC to lead the IPO, two ofthe people said.

The family-owned company, which has focused its efforts onPennsylvania's Marcellus shale and Ohio's Utica shale, couldhave an enterprise value between $1.5 billion to $2.5 billion,according to one of the people. The company is targetting early2014 for its IPO, the people said.

Private equity firm Natural Gas Partners (NGP) has alsobacked the company. Since 2011, NGP has committed to invest upto $400 million with Rice Energy.

The firm was founded by former BlackRock portfolio managerDaniel Rice and his children. Rice left BlackRock last year inthe wake of a potential conflict of interest that involved theenergy company.

The possible conflict stemmed from a joint venture formedwith Alpha Natural Resources and a subsidiary of the natural gasdrilling company founded by Rice. BlackRock increased itsownership in Alpha Natural Resources after the joint venture wasformed.

Rice's son Toby Rice is chief executive of the company.

Barclays declined to comment, while Rice Energy could not beimmediately reached for comment.

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