Which Two Companies Are Bidding For Gas Producer Santos?

In a significant development within the energy sector, Saudi Aramco and Abu Dhabi National Oil Co. (Adnoc) have recently been exploring potential bids for Santos Ltd., an Australian liquefied natural gas (LNG) producer.

This interest from two of the world’s largest energy companies highlights the strategic importance of Santos’ LNG assets and the growing focus on natural gas as a bridge fuel in the energy transition, particularly in Asia.

Interest from Saudi Aramco and Adnoc

Preliminary Evaluations

Saudi Aramco and Adnoc have been conducting preliminary evaluations of Santos as a potential acquisition target.

This initial phase of assessment indicates a serious interest in Santos’ LNG assets, although both companies have yet to decide whether to proceed with formal bids.

The information, sourced from people familiar with the matter who requested anonymity due to the private nature of the discussions, underscores the sensitivity and strategic implications of such a potential acquisition.

Strategic Investment in Natural Gas

Both Aramco and Adnoc are state-owned entities with significant financial resources and strategic interests in expanding their natural gas portfolios.

Natural gas is increasingly seen as a crucial component in the global energy transition, offering a cleaner alternative to coal and oil while supporting energy needs in rapidly growing markets, particularly in Asia.

This strategic interest aligns with broader energy policies aimed at diversifying energy sources and reducing carbon emissions.

Market Reaction and Financial Implications

Surge in Santos’ Stock Price

The news of potential bids from Aramco and Adnoc has led to a notable surge in Santos’ stock price.

The stock rose by as much as 6.5% in Sydney, reaching its highest level in over two years and valuing Santos at approximately A$26.6 billion (US$17.9 billion).

This significant increase reflects investor optimism about the potential acquisition and the perceived value of Santos’ LNG assets.

Historical Context of Takeover Attempts

Santos has a history of attracting interest from potential acquirers. In 2018, the company rejected multiple offers from US-based Harbour Energy Ltd.

Additionally, preliminary discussions with Woodside Energy Group Ltd. broke down earlier this year.

These past attempts highlight the ongoing strategic interest in Santos’ assets and the challenges in reaching a successful acquisition agreement.

Challenges and Opportunities

Internal and External Pressures

Santos has faced various internal and external pressures that have influenced its strategic direction.

Chief Executive Officer Kevin Gallagher, who has led Santos to become Australia’s second-largest oil and gas producer, has been under pressure to improve the company’s stock performance and enhance shareholder returns.

Last year, an activist investor criticized Santos for allocating excessive capital towards growth initiatives.

Analyst Insights

Energy analyst Saul Kavonic from MST Marquee in Sydney noted that while Santos has been open to acquisition offers, potential buyers often uncover significant issues within Santos’ legacy onshore Australian assets, leading them to reconsider.

These challenges have contributed to the complexity of reaching a successful acquisition agreement.

Strategic Fit and Future Prospects

Potential Suitors

Despite the challenges, Santos’ LNG assets remain highly attractive to potential suitors.

Kavonic suggested that Santos’ portfolio might be a better strategic fit for European oil majors or MidOcean Energy LLC, a subsidiary of investment firm EIG Global Energy Partners, in which Aramco holds a stake.

This broader interest highlights the global strategic importance of Santos’ assets and the potential for a competitive bidding process.

CEO Succession and Vulnerability

Kavonic also pointed out that Santos’ current CEO, Kevin Gallagher, is nearing the end of his tenure, and there is no clear succession plan in place.

This leadership uncertainty could create a period of added vulnerability for Santos, potentially making it more susceptible to acquisition attempts.

Investors’ frustration with the company’s performance and the lack of a clear strategic direction could further influence the likelihood of a successful bid.

Strategic Implications for the Energy Sector

Natural Gas as a Bridge Fuel

The potential acquisition of Santos by Aramco or Adnoc would have significant implications for the global energy sector.

Natural gas is increasingly viewed as a critical bridge fuel in the transition to cleaner energy sources.

By investing in Santos, these Middle Eastern energy giants would enhance their positions in the global LNG market, supporting their strategic goals of diversifying energy portfolios and reducing carbon footprints.

Impact on the Australian Energy Market

An acquisition by Aramco or Adnoc would also have profound implications for the Australian energy market. It would signal a shift in ownership and potentially lead to increased investment in Australia’s LNG infrastructure.

This could bolster Australia’s position as a leading LNG exporter and support the country’s long-term energy strategy.


The interest from Saudi Aramco and Abu Dhabi National Oil Co. in acquiring Santos Ltd. underscores the strategic importance of natural gas in the global energy transition.

While the potential bids are still in the preliminary evaluation stage, the significant surge in Santos’ stock price reflects investor optimism and the perceived value of its LNG assets.

Despite the challenges, including leadership uncertainty and legacy asset issues, Santos remains an attractive acquisition target for major energy players.

As the deliberations continue, the outcome of this potential acquisition could reshape the landscape of the global energy sector, highlighting the pivotal role of natural gas in the transition to a more sustainable energy future.

For Santos, a successful acquisition could unlock new opportunities and resources, supporting its growth and enhancing its strategic position in the global market.

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