Raging River Exploration Inc. had been a stock-market star among mid-size oil companies, but now it's on a search for relevance.
Raging River, best known for its operations in the Viking light-oil formation in western Saskatchewan and eastern Alberta, said Monday it has hired investment banks to help it study a "strategic repositioning" – perhaps involving a sale – with its stock stuck at levels not seen in 4 1/2 years.
Such is the dilemma for much of the industry as investors move to other sectors for returns while the Canadian energy malaise drags on over consternation about insufficient export pipeline capacity and other well-worn constraints.
Any hope the announcement would light a fire under the company's shares, as investors twig to the possibility of consolidation, has been quickly doused. Raging River got a slight bump on Tuesday, then tumbled 6.5 per cent to $5.73 on the Toronto Stock Exchange on Wednesday. It's down by more than one-third in the past year.
The corporate process could result in an all-out sale, jettisoning of assets, acquisition, corporate restructuring or various other arrangements, the company said. The move under chief executive officer Neil Roszell follows a similar, but less formal, exercise in 2017.
This time around, it has hired GMP FirstEnergy as adviser to the company and National Bank Financial to advise the board's special committee.
"Raging River believes that the current trading price of its common shares does not adequately reflect the underlying value of the company," it said.
It's not likely wrong. The unusual part of the situation is that Raging River is not in tough financial straits - a frequent reason to test the market for a buyer. In fact, fourth-quarter results were positive and its debt, at $300-million, rings in at well under a year's cash flow. Its problem is what to do next to bolster its growth and create a buzz, and for now, capital markets are essentially closed.
Raging River has expanded its footprint into the Duvernay in Alberta, an emerging play known for vast oil and gas resources but expensive and tricky drilling. Simply operating under current capital spending plans indicates meaningful production gains could be a few years off.
There has been some speculation that Raging River might be interested in a package of Viking oil properties being auctioned by Crescent Point Energy Corp., given its proximity to, and familiarity with, the properties. The package is expected to be worth somewhere in the neighbourhood of $500-million.
It is not known how Raging River's strategic review plays into a decision to make such a heavy bet in an uncertain market. Financing becomes a more difficult proposition, and could require creativity by involving other players.
Raging River could make a number of profitable acquisitions without penalizing its existing shareholders through dilution, Raymond James analyst Jeremy McCrea said in a research note. "Unfortunately, the timing of the announcement to potentially sell the company before [it] really knows what the Duvernay may become also might be seen as premature."
The company is not alone in its predicament, as share prices across the sector languish even with oil prices having climbed into the US$60s per barrel. Stock prices of the smaller players have been hit harder than larger ones, however, with institutional investors seeking more stable targets.
Raging River did not give a timeline for its review process, and said it plans to say no more about it until the board approves something or there's something specific to disclose.