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Occidental chief defends Anadarko pursuit amid shareholder vote

The Anadarko deal will make Occidental the biggest crude producer in the Permian Basin by far

Vicki Hollub and eight other company directors faced a shareholder vote that turned into a proxy referendum on the Anadarko deal sealed a day earlier. Reuters
Vicki Hollub and eight other company directors faced a shareholder vote that turned into a proxy referendum on the Anadarko deal sealed a day earlier. Reuters

Occidental Petroleum’s Vicki Hollub defended her $38 billion pursuit of Anadarko Petroleum as she and eight other company directors faced a shareholder vote that turned into a proxy referendum on the deal.

Ms Hollub and the other directors were re-elected by margins ranging from 70 per cent to 82 per cent on Friday as investors who normally vote 99 per cent in favor of board members registered displeasure at the Anadarko deal sealed a day earlier.

“We are the rightful owner” of Anadarko, Ms Hollub said at Occidental’s annual general meeting in Houston. “We’ll get more out of those assets than any of our competitors.”

The Anadarko deal will make Occidental far and away the biggest crude producer in the Permian Basin, an oil field that’s been pumping crude for a century and has been rejuvenated by the shale revolution.

Ms Hollub is paying up, though: a $10bn cash infusion from Warren Buffett and additional debt will stretch Occidental’s finances at a time when investors are demanding more spending discipline. The company also secured a $21.8 bn bridge loan from Bank of America and Citigroup to help finance the takeover, according to a filing on Friday.

“I’m happy with Warren Buffett for being there,” said Ms Hollub, who met with the billionaire for 90 minutes last month to negotiate investment terms. “The timing was critical for us to get this deal when we did.”

Under terms of the definitive agreement announced late Thursday, Anadarko is on the hook for a $1bn breakup fee if it backs out. If Occidental walks away, it must reimburse Anadarko for the $1bn Chevron received after the California-based oil giant bowed out of the bidding war.

While the proposed acquisition didn’t require formal shareholder approval, some investors - including T. Towe Price - indicated they would register their displeasure by voting against the re-election of Ms Hollub and other directors. Another indication of investor unease was approval at Friday’s meeting of a proposal that will make it easier for shareholders to summon a special meeting.

Occidental’s stock extended losses for a second day, dropping as much as 2.6 per cent on Friday to a 10-year low. A day earlier, rival Chevron acquiesced and decided not to match or beat Occidental’s price for Anadarko. The pressure is now on Ms Hollub and her team to deliver the $3.5bn in cost cuts and savings she promised.

At Friday’s meeting in Houston, Ms Hollub presented a 15 minute video about the company’s 2018 exploits and then went off script and addressed reporters sitting at the back of the conference room.

“What you should know is I’m an engineer: my experience with M&A is very limited,” said Ms Hollub, 59, who has spent her entire career at Occidental.

She then proceeded to introduce her “M&A dream team” by name and detailed their roles in the transaction. Senior vice president Oscar Brown received a special mention for accompanying Ms Hollub on trips to to Omaha and Paris for meetings with Mr Buffett and executives at Total, respectively.

“TV has confused determination with desperation,” she said. “We approached this deal from a position of strength.”

Updated: May 11, 2019 05:28 PM

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