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File photo of the Athabasca Oil Sands near Fort McMurray, Alta.

Ben Nelms/Bloomberg

Another international oil company is marking its exit from Canada's energy sector – this time Houston-based Apache Corp.

Apache announced late Thursday that it will complete what has been a staged departure from Canada by selling Alberta and British Columbia assets to Calgary-based Paramount Resources Ltd. Specifically, Paramount will acquire natural gas-focused Apache Canada Ltd. for $459.5-million, deepening the trend towards homegrown ownership in the Canadian energy industry.

At the same time, Paramount announced it will merge with Trilogy Energy Corp., another Canadian company formed through a spinout of assets from Paramount more than a decade ago. Paramount has entered into an agreement with Trilogy that will see Paramount acquire all of the shares of Trilogy on the basis of one Paramount share for every 3.75 Trilogy shares.

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The merger keeps things all in the family. Both Paramount and Trilogy are already controlled by Calgary's wealthy Riddell family. Billionaire Clayton Riddell founded Paramount, served as chief executive until two years ago, and still serves as executive chairman. He is also chairman of Trilogy. Both companies are now led by his son, James.

Apache joins a growing list of companies that have sold out of Canada's energy sector – a movement that has been most pronounced in the oil sands. Recent moves include Cenovus Energy Inc.'s $17.7-billion deal for ConocoPhillips Co.'s oil sands holdings and other Canadian assets, and Royal Dutch Shell PLC's announcement that it will sell major oil-sands holdings in Alberta to Canadian Natural Resources Ltd. for about $7.25-billion (U.S.).

"Today's announcement is consistent with Apache's objective of streamlining our portfolio and focusing on assets in the United States, United Kingdom North Sea and Egypt. This strategic decision will enhance the company's resource allocation to its primary growth areas, particularly within the Permian Basin," John J. Christmann IV, Apache's chief executive and president, said in a news release.

"With our decision to exit Canada, Apache's resulting global portfolio is more streamlined and our resources more focused."

The movement by global energy players has been spurred by low crude prices, high global supplies, and more attractive investment opportunities in other parts of the world, including the U.S. Permian Basin. But Albertans continue to debate what role regulatory uncertainty, tougher Canadian environmental rules, and limited pipeline access to key refinery markets has played in the international exits.

Even before Thursday's announcement, Apache had agreed to sell its Provost assets in Alberta to an undisclosed privately owned company. Also in June, Apache sold other Saskatchewan and Alberta assets to Calgary-based Cardinal Energy Ltd. The Cardinal transaction closed in late June, and the others are expected to close by the end of the summer.

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Apache said in a release that aggregate proceeds from the three transactions are approximately $927-million (CAD). The proceeds will be used to fund a portion of the company's capital program, to reduce debt, or to improve overall liquidity.

For its part, Paramount said the deals will make it Montney, Duvernay and Deep Basin-focused. The integration, it said, "will generate operational synergies, optimize cost structures, offer financial flexibility and provide economies of scale."

In its news release, Paramount also said it plans to fund the Apache Canada acquisition with cash on hand, and no debt will be assumed.

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