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Shell to purchase British rival BG for nearly $70 billion

Other energy giants may follow suit as they look to boost growth through acquisitions after increased production in the US helped trigger a plunge in oil prices.

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    In this April 7, 2014 file photo, a flag bearing the company logo of Royal Dutch Shell, an Anglo-Dutch oil and gas company, flies outside the head office in The Hague, Netherlands.
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Oil and gas company Shell has agreed to buy British rival BG Group for $69.7 billion in cash and stock, in a deal that may signal a new wave of mega-mergers as the energy industry tries to adapt to lower prices.

Royal Dutch Shell said Wednesday it will pay the equivalent of 13.67 pounds in cash and stock for each share of BG Group, 50 percent more than Tuesday's closing price. The deal will boost Shell's oil and gas reserves by 25 percent, including offshore projects in Australia and Brazil, and give it a bigger presence in the fast-growing liquefied natural gas market, Shell said.

Other energy giants may follow suit as they look to boost growth through acquisitions after increased production in the US helped trigger a plunge in oil prices. The last wave of oil mergers took place in the 1990s after new production from the North Sea, Alaska and Mexico led to excess global capacity.

"Will this be the opening shot in a new wave of mega-mergers like the 1990s?" asked Christian Stadler, associate professor of strategic management at Warwick Business School in Britain. "Quite a few oil companies are under cost pressure with no sense of the oil price recovering. Companies had got used to $100 a barrel, and many need $40 to $60 to break even so we could see more of these deals."

The international price of crude oil has plunged from over $115 a barrel last summer to a low around $45 before recovering slightly in recent weeks to trade at $58 a barrel on Wednesday.

The takeover of BG Group makes sense for Shell because it allows the company to replace reserves at a time when exploration budgets are being cut and after its attempts to join the US shale boom did not amount to much, Stadler said.

The boards of both companies recommended that shareholders approve the deal, which they say will create a more competitive, stronger company amid the volatility in oil prices. Shares in Shell were down about 7 percent while those in BG Group soared 32 percent.

BG shareholders will own about 19 percent of Shell after the deal is complete.

Combining the two companies will produce savings of about 2.5 billion pounds a year, Shell said in a statement.

"This an incredibly exciting moment for Shell," Chief Executive Ben van Beurden told reporters. "It is bold and strategic moves that shape our industry."

BG's Norwegian CEO Helge Lund was conspicuously absent from Wednesday's press conference. Organizers said he remained at BG headquarters in Reading — a two-hour drive from London — in order to handle internal communication with the company's workforce. He will stay with BG only until the deal is completed.

However, he said in a statement that BG would benefit from the takeover.

"BG's deep water positions and strengths in exploration, liquefaction, and LNG shipping and marketing will combine well with Shell's scale, development expertise and financial strength," he said.

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