U.S. Markets closed

QEP shares rise after deals to buy oil assets

NEW YORK (AP) -- Shares of QEP Resources Inc. rose Friday after the company announced it would buy oil- and gas-producing land in North Dakota for $1.38 billion.

The shares rose $1.63, or 6 percent, to end the session at $28.81.

After the market closed Thursday, QEP said that its QEP Energy unit reached a deal to buy 27,600 acres in North Dakota's Williston Basin from several sellers. It's mostly oil-production acreage that should help QEP diversify away from its reliance on natural gas production.

Natural gas prices have sagged because of strong production using techniques that break up underground shale formations and release gas. Low gas prices have led many energy companies to shift their focus to producing more oil and gas liquids.

Denver-based QEP said the land that it's buying produces the equivalent of 10,500 barrels of oil per day and holds reserves of 125 million barrels — 81 percent oil, 10 percent gas, and 9 percent natural gas liquids.

Shares of one of the sellers also rose. Black Hills Corp. said it agreed to sell 85 percent of its shale-formation assets in the Williston Basin for $243 million, with the final price subject to adjustments. The Rapid City, S.D., company said the sale will close by the end of September.

Black Hills shares rose $2.43, or 7.8 percent, to end at $33.44.

Analysts differed on whether QEP paid a reasonable price or spent too much.

Jefferies analyst Subash Chandra said investors worried that the company might be forced to make expensive acquisitions to expand its oil and gas reserves.

"Acquisition did indeed materialize, but management seems to have exhibited discipline and waited for a reasonably priced opportunity," Chandra said in a note to clients.

But Sterne Agee analyst Tim Rezvan said QEP "appears to have paid a rich price to acquire attractive acreage."

Raymond James analyst Andrew Coleman said the price per acre seemed high but "appears in line" when considering production and reserves in "some of the most premium acreage" in the Bakken field.

Standard & Poor's Ratings Services said that the acquisition would not change its ratings even though QEP planned to supplement the cash it is using for the deal with borrowing against its revolving credit facility. S&P said the deal adds to QEP's reserves and production and will diversify the gas-heavy company.