A handful of energy companies have enticed investors with share issues, even as the oil patch faces tough times.
In Canada, producers have raised more than $2.1-billion in equity financing since the start of the year, with Cenovus Energy Inc.'s bought deal last week accounting for the lion's share. That is more than double what the sector raised in the last big drop in activity, in the first three months of 2013, when U.S. benchmark crude averaged more than $95 (U.S.) a barrel.
Oil has recently fetched around $49.50 a barrel, putting severe pressure on energy-company stock prices and forcing producers to slash spending and, in some cases, dividends.
Yet there are signs of life in the capital markets.
Cenovus raised $1.5-billion (Canadian) last week in its bought deal, or issue in which the underwriting dealers purchase the shares for resale to their institutional and retail clients. The offering did not sell out immediately, but the underwriters, led by RBC Dominion Securities and TD Securities, eventually got the deal done.
Crew Energy Inc. issued $100-million of shares and Raging River Exploration Inc. raised $88.3-million in early February. ARC Resources Ltd. did a $402-million deal in late January. This past week, junior producer Rock Energy Inc. closed a $13.2-million offering.
Investment bankers are quick to say that caution prompted by the oil industry remains, but there appears to be some appetite among investors for bargains from companies that are in relatively good financial shape.
Meanwhile, crude prices, while still depressed, have been far less volatile in in the past few weeks.
The deals generate badly needed fees for the dealers as the volume of mergers and acquisitions in the industry has dropped off.
Some of the stock on offer is said to be of interest to existing shareholders looking to bolster their positions in companies. Some general, rather that energy-specialist, institutional investors have also weighed in with purchases, according to one banker. More such deals are expected, though it likely won't be anywhere near the volume of last year.