Murphy Oil in Loeb's Sights

Dan Loeb's hedge fund, Third Point LLC, has put together a "significant" stake in Murphy Oil Corp. (NYSE: MUR) and filed with the SEC to buy even more. Murphy today acknowledged that it continues to "evaluate opportunities to illuminate the value in our stock price for the benefit of all our shareholders."

Murphy may have a better idea of what their assets are worth than does Loeb, who claims that if the company divests certain assets it could raise as much as $8.9 billion. Bloomberg cites an analyst at UBS who thinks that the assets could fetch as little as $4.5 billion.

Loeb wants Murphy to spin-off its retail business and sell its U.K. refinery, its 5% stake in Syncrude's oil sands projects, and its Canadian Natural Gas assets. In a letter to Third Point's shareholders, Loeb said that if Murphy takes his advice the stock could be worth $91 to $94 a share a share, about 50% more than its current level.

Speaking of Murphy's reluctance to part with the retail business Loeb's letter says:

[I]t appears sentimental attachment by management and the Murphy family is driving a stubborn desire to hold onto these and other non-strategic assets, creating a significant drag on enterprise value.

Loeb may have a point. In the past two years, Murphy's shares have lost about 4% of their value, while the S&P 500 has gained nearly 30%. The company simply isn't big enough (market cap of about $11.4 billion) to play in the same league with the integrated supermajors like Exxon Mobil Corp. (NYSE: XOM) and Chevron Corp. (NYSE: CVX).

Murphy's shares are trading up 0.9% today, at $57.26 in a 52-week range of $50.62 to $78.29.

Loeb's letter is available here.

Paul Ausick

Filed under: 24/7 Wall St. Wire, Commodities, Oil & Gas, Private Equity Tagged: CVX, MUR, XOM