HOUSTON – Swiss oil-field equipment provider Weatherford International is planning to sell its chemistry and drilling fluids businesses for $825 million in cash plus potential earnout to a chemicals company owned by billionaire Warren Buffett.
The sale, announced Monday, includes an influx of $750 million in cash and a $75 million potential increase tied to the businesses’ earnings after the deal closes. The deal is expected to close before the end of the year.
Weatherford said it will use the proceeds of the deal to pay down debt, in the latest in a string of moves by the company to sell off its least lucrative businesses. The sale comes as oil prices have fallen below $70 for the first time in four years.
The company’s engineered chemistry business is central to the chemical cocktails the oil and gas industry uses as additives for drilling and stimulating wells. The drilling fluids business boosts the additives oil companies use in drilling operations.
The deal boosts Weatherford’s cash from its divested proceeds to $1.8 billion this year, and will likely mean it will have $6.6 billion to $6.8 billion in debt by the end of the year, “substantial progress” on its goals to dial down the debt on its balance sheet, Weatherford CEO Bernard Duroc-Danner said in a written statement.
The buyer, Ohio-based specialty chemicals company Lubrizol Corp., gets a bigger footprint in the oil and gas industry.
“For us, it is a decisive move into a large adjacent market space that, we believe, will value the combined technologies, fluid formulation capabilities and applications knowledge of our legacy and newly acquired businesses,” said James Hambrick, CEO of Lubrizol, in a written statement.
The two businesses will probably collect a combined $425 million in revenue this year, said Thomas Curran, an analyst with FBR Capital Markets, who was citing Spears & Associates.
“There is an expanding pack of general industrials/conglomerates — more numerous and diverse than most appreciate — that are executing or seriously considering acquisitions as a means of entering or expanding within certain oil field services niches,” Curran wrote in a note to clients.