Rosetta's Permian deal to cut dependence on Eagle Ford

Oil and natural gas producer Rosetta Resources Inc will buy some of Comstock Resources Inc's oil-rich acreage in West Texas's Permian Basin for about $768 million to reduce its dependence on the Eagle Ford shale in the same state.

Shares of Rosetta rose 6 percent to $53.13 on Friday. Comstock shares soared 18 percent to $18.86 - their highest in more than four months - after the company said the deal would help it reduce debt.

Shares of other companies with big acreage in the Permian Basin, such as Clayton Williams Energy Inc , Cimarex Energy Corp and Concho Resources Inc , also rose.

Rosetta's acquisition of 53,306 net acres from Comstock will double its total acreage of oil and natural gas liquids. About 96 percent of Rosetta's production last year came from the Eagle Ford shale.

The Permian and the Eagle Ford are two of the most prolific shale fields in the United States, where drilling techniques such as hydraulic fracturing have led to a leap in production.

"It is a continuation of our strategy to pursue new growth opportunities and build our inventory of repeatable oil-rich projects," said James Craddock, who took over as Rosetta's chief executive in late February.

The Permian Basin has been high on the company's target list for several years, Craddock said on a conference call.

"(The deal) should be positive for shares as (it) removes overhang on shape and form of transaction and provides clarity on growth plans beyond Eagle Ford," said Wells Fargo Securities analyst Gordon Douthat.

Rosetta will get 40,182 net acres and 74 producing wells in the Reeves County. The remaining 13,124 net acres is in the Gaines County, where the company said there was potential for multiple exploratory opportunities.

Total net production from the Reeves acreage was about 3,300 barrels of oil equivalent per day (boe/d), with more than 73 percent being oil, Rosetta said. Its production averaged 37,200 boe/d last year.

The acquisition will add to Rosetta's cash flow per share in 2014, the Houston-based company said.

Rosetta said it has secured $700 million of committed financing for the deal, expected to close by May 15.

The deal will help Frisco, Texas-based Comstock raise drilling in the Eagle Ford shale and lower its debt of $1.32 billion as of December 31.

Comstock, with operations mainly in Texas and Louisiana, expects to spend 74 percent of its 2013 capital budget of $422 million on the shale, it said.

RBC Richardson Barr advised Rosetta, while Evercore Partners advised Comstock.

Comstock shares were up 13 percent at $18.08, while Rosetta shares were up 4.4 percent at $52.19 in afternoon trading.

(Reporting By Kanika Sikka and Krishna N. Das; Editing by Sriraj Kalluvila and Saumyadeb Chakrabarty)