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Tracinda to take 35% Stake in Delta Petroleum (DPTR)

Billionaire investor Kirk Kerkorian’s Tracinda Corp will take a 35% stake in Delta Petroleum Corp. (DPTR), under an agreement for the firm to make a $684 million investment in the energy company and acquire shares at a price representing a 23% premium from Friday’s closing price. Under the deal, Tracinda will buy 36 million shares of Delta stock at $19 a share. Shares of Delta closed Friday at $15.51.

Tracinda will have the right to nominate members to Delta’s board on a pro rata basis reflecting its share ownership, which will initially be one third of Delta’s board. The company also said the investment will give “significant” financial flexibility to fund its long-term drilling programs and allow for increased acquisition activity, in line with Delta’s strategy to pursue complementary acreage and working interest acquisitions in its core areas.

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For Kerkorian, the move is a big bet by the 90-year-old billionaire on a company with a weak stock performance but the potential to hit big with new fields in the western United States.

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Denver-based Delta, whose stock had suffered a 33 percent drop in 2007 before rallying more than 20 percent on Monday, has faced difficulties developing new projects, but could see its fortunes improve if a new field in Utah delivers on its promise.”Delta Petroleum has become a very important company in the industry, with valuable resource plays, a strong asset base and well-positioned exploration projects that we believe hold significant growth potential,” Tracinda said, noting that while providing Delta the capital to accelerate its exploration activities, the investment will give shareholders of both companies “the ability to realize value from its growth going forward.”

Delta plans to speed up drilling in the Paradox Basin in Utah and the Piceance Basin in Colorado, part of a region forecast by the U.S. Energy Department to become the largest domestic source of natural gas. The Utah field, the Greentown Project in the Paradox Basin, is currently undergoing testing, and the company said earlier this month it could yield “immense reserve potential.” Delta, which reported third-quarter production of 4.58 billion cubic feet of natural gas equivalent and expects output to grow by 40 to 60 percent in 2008, has core operations in the Rocky Mountains and Texas. New pipelines connecting Rocky Mountain gas fields to consuming markets will boost demand for Delta’s output, Chief Executive Officer Roger Parker said today on a conference call with investors.

Morgan Stanley and Merrill Lynch & Co. advised Delta, which has posted losses in five straight quarters, on the transaction. Talks with Tracinda began about a month ago. Parker, who is also chairman, said he never considered selling the entire company. The agreement includes a $5 million breakup fee.

Delta can’t issue new stock without first offering to sell Tracinda enough shares to maintain its stake in the company, according to the agreement, which was submitted today as part of a public filing on the deal. Tracinda keeps that right as long as its interest in Delta doesn’t fall below 10 percent.

Covered Calls: The following covered call investing positions were found for Delta Petroleum using PowerOptions search tool.

PowerOptions covered call search
Option Strike
DPTR 18.85 (+3.34) QHRAW 08 JAN 17.5 (19) 1.7 9 2 2
DPTR 18.85 (+3.34) QHRAD 08 JAN 20.0 (19) 0.6 3.2 3.3 9.6
DPTR 18.85 (+3.34) QHRBW 08 FEB 17.5 (47) 2.4 12.7 6.4 6.4
(For more details click the ticker symbol above)

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