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Jim Letourneau's Blog

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Value Vultures Circling Canadian Oil Patch

We may be visiting the nethermost neighborhood of value in the Canadian oil patch based on a few recent transactions. Finding the bottom in any market is a task fraught with peril. Our personal nether regions become exceptionally sensitive when we try to lock in great prices at the perfect time. Nobody can pluck both from the market's clutches consistently but current oil company prices are starting to attract buyers.

The outlook for UTS Energy Corp. brightened when Total SA (TOT) announced a hostile bid of $1.30 a share. The market now thinks UTS assets are worth $1.69 a share instead of the $0.83 it was trading at before Total's bid. The all-time high for UTS was $7.99 so this bid isn't bringing much joy to long-term shareholders (if there are any left). Not surprisingly, UTS is recommending that shareholders reject Total's unsolicited offer. They point out that their cash and money spent on their advanced projects to date (not counting other properties) is $3.57 per common share. UTS believes that "we can do better for our shareholders than what this offer represents." For what it's worth, I believed in the tooth fairy... as long as I was losing teeth.

Value vultures have made a couple recent deals: Tusk Energy was recently purchased by Polar Star Canadian Oil and Gas for $257 million creating a nice 150% premium to the market.

Bow Valley Energy, another North Sea explorer/borrower sold out for 70% premium to its market price on last week. Sliding from a 1-year high of $6.43 to a takeout at $0.50 isn't inspiring but provides closure for shell-shocked shareholders.

Most importantly, I believe these transactions to be the tasty amuse-bouches that precede a feast of strategic takeouts. Major oil companies are loaded with cash and might be interested in strategic Canadian oil assets.

Energy politics are starting to shift. Barrack Obama was asked point-blank by CBC National News anchor Peter Mansbridge yesterday about Canada's oil sands: "What do you think? Is it dirty oil?"

Obama replied, "I think that it is possible for us to create a set of clean energy mechanisms that allow us to use things not just like oil sands, but also coal." Since we're already using these energy sources in a very big way and polls show clean energy ranking very low on people's minds, it looks like there could be a graceful exit from his harsh pre-election rhetoric on America's energy status quo

A recent Canaccord Adams report considers Suncor Energy (SU), Encana (ECA), Canadian Natural Resources (CNQ), Talisman Energy (TLM) and Nexen (NXY) as Canadian energy companies that would appear to be vulnerable to an unsolicited offer.

Let the feast begin!

Reprinted by Permission C 2009 Minyanville Media, Inc.