Anatomy of a Merger – The Years’ Long Road to EQT/Rice Deal

In June EQT and Rice Energy announced that EQT will buy out and merge in Rice Energy, to create (in EQT) the largest natural gas-producing company in the United States (see EQT Buys Rice Energy in $8.2B Deal, Becomes #1 Gas Producer in US). You may see headlines from time to time that say EQT is paying $6.7 billion for Rice. However, EQT is also assuming $1.5 billion worth of Rice Energy debt as part of the deal–so in our book, the total price paid is $8.2 billion, not $6.7 billion. Have you ever wondered how a massive deal like this comes together? Did the top brass at EQT phone up the top brass at Rice and say “let’s go for coffee” and a few months later there’s a deal? Nope. Doesn’t happen that way. In paperwork filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission, EQT (and Rice) outlined the chronology of how this deal came together. It’s far more complicated than the most complicated soap opera you can imagine. The story begins with EQT keeping a close eye on available acreage in the southwestern Marcellus region. EQT noticed an “accelerating trend” of consolidation. In 2015, a full two years before the EQT/Rice announcement, EQT lusted for more acreage and feared that if Rice combined with someone else, an important opportunity would be lost. So EQT got outside help (Wachtell Lipton) to begin the process of evaluating a buyout of Rice (June 2015). In July 2015, the muckety mucks from both Rice and EQT got together to talk, and “informally” discussed the potential benefits of a merger. But the talks went nowhere at the time. In early 2016, two other companies (unnamed) held similar talks with Rice. EQT then jumped back into the mix, in May 2016. EQT and Rice promptly got more serious about sniffing around each other, signing confidentiality agreements and beginning the due diligence process. Things moved quickly. Rice investigated mergers with two other companies and with EQT. EQT pressed Rice for an answer in July 2016. Talks broke down by the end of the summer in 2016. Rice then bought out Vantage and EQT snapped up more Marcellus acreage in various deals. And the soap opera goes on from there. We have the full script below…

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