February 3, 2023
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Santa Maria Energy to raise $40M, go public


Santa Maria Energy is going public and raising at least $40 million in new capital — and possibly much more — which could put the firm’s total funds raised at an estimated $90 million.

Santa Maria Energy’s contentious project to drill 136 new oil wells in North Santa Barbara County received approval from the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors last month. The Supervisors imposed strict limits on the project’s carbon emissions, essentially implementing a 10,000-ton-per-year cap and requiring the company to buy carbon credits if it goes over that limit.

But the carbon cap does not seem to have deterred investors. On Dec. 4, Hyde Park Acquisition Corp. II announced it would merge with Santa Maria Energy, pumping at least $40 million into the surviving parent firm, Santa Maria Energy Corp., which is expected to trade on the NASDAQ Capital Market.

Hyde Park is a so-called blank check firm. Those firms raise money via an initial public offering and then use the cash to acquire an operating company. Hyde Park has about $79 million in assets on its balance sheet, nearly all of it in the form of Treasuries held in a trust account awaiting investment.

The deal is a complicated series of mergers, but one of its requirements is that at least $40 million will remain in the investment trust account — money that would customarily be available to the new Santa Maria Energy Corp. as operating capital.

In addition to the capital from the going-public merger, Santa Maria Energy also said that it would retain Lazard Frères & Co. to help it raise additional money for project development from the public equity markets in a separate transaction.

It’s difficult to pinpoint an exact overall value for Santa Maria Energy or to say precisely how much capital the money firm has raised because it has not disclosed those figures yet. The company did disclose that Kayne Anderson, a energy-focused private equity firm, holds $50 million in preferred units that will be rolled into the final entity.

For its part, Hyde Park’s largest individual investor is Board Chairman Laurence S. Levy, a South African-born middle market leveraged buyout specialist who has current roles in logistics and crane rental companies. Outside investors include hedge fund manager David M. Knott, CNH Partners, TD Asset Management, Fir Tree, Castle Creek Arbitrage and AQR Diversified Arbitrage.

“The board believes the oil resources owned by [Santa Maria Energy] together with its track record as an operator engaged in the development and production of oil and natural gas in Northern Santa Barbara County provide Hyde Park shareholders with an investment opportunity with considerable upside potential,” Hyde Park said in a statement.

In a letter to investors, Santa Maria Energy CEO David Pratt said nothing was expected to change at the firm except that it would become publicly traded – and have more capital.

“We believe access to the public equity markets will not only enable Santa Maria Energy to execute on the next phase of our long term development plan, but will also position the company to take advantage of future opportunities to accelerate our growth,” Pratt said in the letter. “As we continue to expand, we believe that we will be able to significantly increase our cash flow and profitability over time.”

The deal is subject to approval by shareholders of both companies and is expected to close in the second quarter of next year.