By Gary McWilliams and Liz Hampton
HOUSTON (Reuters) – Halliburton Co <HAL.N> is in late-stage talks to acquire a fast-growing U.S. oilfield equipment supplier backed by Oklahoma energy and banking billionaire George Kaiser, according to sources familiar with the matter.
The move comes after the No. 2 oilfield services company was rebuffed in two earlier efforts to acquire similar products. Houston-based Halliburton has set its sights on Summit ESP Inc, said the sources, who spoke in recent days. The people spoke on condition of anonymity because the discussions are not public.
Tulsa, Oklahoma-based Summit ESP makes pumps used to maintain well pressure to increase oil and gas production in aging wells. The devices, components in a business called artificial lift, increasingly are being used to prolong the life of shale wells.
Halliburton’s 2014 attempt to buy Baker Hughes Inc <BHI.N> was opposed by U.S. regulators and its 2016 bid for a Russian company has been stalled by Russian regulators.
Halliburton declined to comment on Tuesday. Summit did not return calls seeking comment. Argonaut Private Equity, Kaiser’s investment vehicle, declined to comment.
Summit ESP was founded in 2011 and is led by executives who had earlier held senior posts at Baker Hughes, including Chief Executive John Kenner. It has expanded quickly in the United States and Canada, and in May announced it had installed its 8,000th electric submersible pump (ESP), an increase of 1,000 since November.
ESPs are a worldwide business of about $5 billion a year, according to market researcher Frost & Sullivan. The main providers are Schlumberger NV <SLB.N>, Baker Hughes and Weatherford International PLC <WTF.N>.
Halliburton, which has a small ESP business, “is trying to catch up to Schlumberger and Weatherford,” Anand Gnanamoorthy, industry manager at Frost & Sullivan, said in an interview this month. ESPs generally cost between $50,000 and $200,000 for a complete system, he said.
Summit, said one of the sources, wants to reach a deal soon to pre-empt the announcement of Baker Hughes’ closing on its merger with General Electric Co <GE.N> oil and gas unit, which is expected at mid-year.
Kaiser, who controls Kaiser-Francis Oil Co and is the majority owner of BOK Financial Corp <BOKF.O>, which owns banks from Arizona to Missouri, financed Summit ESP through his Argonaut Private Equity investment firm. It has more than $3 billion of capital deployed in more than 100 investments. Sales talks between Halliburton and Summit have been on and off several times in the last year over valuation differences. Summit ESP’s revenue last year was about $180 million, a decline of 10 percent from 2015, according to market researcher Spears & Associates. After initial talks with Summit last year, Halliburton shifted its focus to reaching an agreement with Novomet Oil Services Holdings, a Russian supplier of electric submersible pumps that has operations in about 17 countries. In December, Halliburton disclosed it had sought Russian government approval for a deal to acquire up to 100 percent of Novomet.
Halliburton Chief Executive Jeff Miller twice this year has told analysts the company was looking to fill a gap in its artificial lift business through mergers and acquisition. Halliburton renewed talks with Summit this year after Russia’s Federal Antimonopoly Service failed to rule on the application. A Halliburton spokesman declined to comment on the status of that application. A representative of the FAS told Reuters earlier this month it had not decided whether a government strategic review would be needed. A source familiar with the matter said the Russian review has been stalled over concerns about the strategic implications of a U.S. company owning a domestic supplier whose gear keeps aging Russian fields producing.
(Additional reporting by Maria Kiselyova in Moscow; Editing by Matthew Lewis)