Enerplus has entered into agreements with three private natural gas producers, Chief Oil & Gas LLC, Chief Exploration & Development LLC and a limited partnership managed by Tug Hill, Inc. (collectively "Chief"), to acquire 30% of their interests in the Marcellus shale natural gas resource play in the northeastern United States. Chief currently owns an average 72% working interest in approximately 540,000 gross acres, the majority of which is located in Pennsylvania within the heart of the Marcellus shale gas play. Upon completion of the acquisition, Enerplus will own an average 21.5% non-operated working interest in this acreage (approximately 116,000 net acres).
Total consideration for the acquisition is US $406 million (approximately US $3,500/net acre) comprised of US $162.4 million in cash to be paid upon closing and US $243.6 million to be paid as a carry of 50% of Chief's future drilling and completion costs in the Marcellus shale play, which we expect will be invested over the next four years. As part of the transaction, Enerplus will also enter into Area of Mutual Interest ("AMI") agreements with Chief that will allow us the opportunity to partner on any follow-on acquisitions or swaps in the Marcellus play. These AMIs will provide us with the opportunity to jointly acquire more land under the current ownership structure as well as the potential to increase our working interest ownership and possibly operate in certain new areas. Enerplus is obligated to pay the carry amount in order to retain the full 30% working interest in Chief's lands and participate in the AMI. We expect the transaction to close in early September 2009, subject to standard closing conditions, with an effective date of May 1, 2009.
"This transaction is a significant step in high-grading our asset base to provide greater growth potential and further improve our operating performance", stated Gordon Kerr, President & Chief Executive Officer. "Enerplus has gained an entry point into one of the premier shale gas resource plays in North America, consistent with our strategic direction, with an experienced partner who has a proven track record in shale gas development. With the play in the early stages of development, we believe there is tremendous opportunity for future production, reserves and value growth".
In conjunction with the acquisition, Enerplus has agreed to issue 9.25 million trust units through a Canadian bought deal financing at a price of CDN$21.65 per trust unit for gross proceeds of CDN$200 million. A portion of the net proceeds are expected to be used to pay for the upfront cash portion of the acquisition and the remainder will initially be used to repay bank indebtedness and subsequently used to fund a portion of Enerplus' on-going capital expenditures.
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