Marathon to pay $3.5 billion for Eagle Ford assets

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Marathon Oil Corp <MRO.N> will pay $3.5 billion to buy oil and gas properties in Texas' Eagle Ford shale field from private equity firm KKR and Co <KKR.N> and Hilcorp Resources Holdings LP, the companies said on Wednesday.

The deal for the 140,000 acres in the Eagle Ford shale is the latest in a frenzy by energy producers to snap up oil and gas properties that were too difficult for the industry to tap into only a decade ago.

Eagle Ford has emerged as the hottest of those North American shale fields, since much of its output is oil, which remains above $100 per barrel, rather than natural gas that flows from fields such as the Marcellus shales.

With the new agreement, Marathon's overall holdings in the Eagle Ford will total more than 285,000 acres by the end of the year, it said, and potentially give it an additional 100 million barrels of oil equivalent in proved reserves.

Marathon is a currently an integrated oil company like its larger peers Exxon Mobil <XOM.N> and Chevron Corp, owning both oil and gas production assets and refineries, but it is planning to spin off its refining assets into a separate company at the end of June.

KKR's stake in Hilcorp will be valued at $1.13 billion, nearly triple the $400 million the firm invested in the company a year ago.

Hilcorp owns 140,000 net acres in the south Texas field that has some of the most sought-after properties in North America's energy industry.

Marathon was advised in the deal by Barclays Capital and law firm Baker Botts, while Hilcorp was advised by Jefferies & Co and law firm Andrews Kurth LLP. KKR's law firm was Simpson, Thacher & Bartlett, LLP.

Marathon's shares fell 1.6 percent in premarket trading.

(Reporting by Matt Daily, editing by Dave Zimmerman and Maureen Bavdek)