M&A moves

Houston energy company to combine with Chesapeake in $7.4B deal

Houston-based Southwestern Energy will combine with Oklahoma City-based Chesapeake Energy. Photo via swn.com

Chesapeake Energy and Southwestern Energy are combining in a $7.4 billion all-stock deal to form one of the biggest natural gas producers in the U.S.

There have been a string of deals in the energy sector, including the nearly $60 billion acquisition of Pioneer Natural Resources by ExxonMobil and a $53 billion deal between Chevron and Hess.

Southwestern shareholders will receive 0.0867 shares of Chesapeake common stock for each outstanding share of Southwestern common stock at closing.

Chesapeake shareholders will own about 60 percent of the combined company, while Southwestern shareholders will own approximately 40 percent.

The transaction, valued at $6.69 per share, will create a company that has large scale acreage in the Appalachia region and Haynesville, Louisiana. It has current net production of approximately 7.9 Bcfe/d with more than 5,000 gross locations and 15 years of inventory.

“The world is short energy and demand for our products is growing, both in the U.S. and overseas," Chesapeake CEO Nick Dell’Osso said in a prepared statement Thursday. "We will be positioned to deliver more natural gas at a lower cost, accelerating America’s energy reach and fueling a more affordable, reliable, and lower carbon future."

The combined company will build a facility in Houston to supply lower-cost, lower carbon energy to meet increasing domestic and international liquefied natural gas demand.

The combined company will have a new name, but that has not yet been disclosed.

The boards of both companies have approved the deal, which is expected to close in the second quarter. It still needs approval from Chesapeake and Southwestern shareholders.

Shares of Southwestern, based in Houston, declined more than 3 percent before the market opened, while shares of Chesapeake, based in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, rose slightly.

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A View From HETI

IBM and Boxes recently partnered to integrate the IBM watsonx Assistant into Boxes devices, providing a way for consumer packaged brands to find out more than ever about what its customers like and want. Photo courtesy of Boxes

With the help of a new conversational artificial intelligence platform, a Houston startup is ready to let brands get up close and personal with consumers while minimizing waste.

IBM and Boxes recently partnered to integrate the IBM watsonx Assistant into Boxes devices, providing a way for consumer packaged brands to find out more than ever about what its customers like and want.

The Boxes device, about the size of a 40-inch television screen, dispenses products to consumers in a modern and sustainable spin on the old-fashioned large vending machine.

CEO Fernando Machin Gojdycz learned that business from his entrepreneur father, Carlos Daniel Machin, while growing up in Uruguay.

“That’s where my passion comes from — him,” Gojdycz says of his father. In 2016, Gojdycz founded Boxes in Uruguay with some engineer friends

Funded by a $2,000 grant from the University of Uruguay, the company's mission was “to democratize and economize affordable and sustainable shopping,” in part by eliminating wasteful single-use plastic packaging.

“I worked for one year from my bedroom,” he tells InnovationMap.

Fernando Machin Gojdycz founded Boxes in Uruguay before relocating the company to Greentown Houston. Photo courtesy of Boxes

The device, attached to a wall, offers free samples, or purchased products, in areas of high foot traffic, with a touch-screen interface. Powered by watsonx Assistant, the device asks survey questions of the customer, who can answer or not, on their mobile devices, via a QR code.

In return for completing a survey, customers can get a digital coupon, potentially generating future sales. The software and AI tech tracks sales and consumer preferences, giving valuable real-time market insight.

“This is very powerful,” he says.

Boxes partnered in Uruguay with major consumer brands like Kimberly-Clark, SC Johnson and Unilever, and during COVID, pivoted and offered PPE products. Then, with plans of an expansion into the United States, Boxes in 2021 landed its first U.S. backer, with $120,000 in funding from startup accelerator Techstars.

This led to a partnership with the Minnesota Twins, where Boxes devices at Target Field dispensed brand merchandise like keychains and bottles of field dirt.

Gojdycz says while a company in the Northeast is developing a product similar in size, Boxes is not “targeting traditional spaces.” Its software and integration with AI allows Boxes to seamlessly change the device screen and interface, remotely, as well.

Boxes aims to provide the devices in smaller spaces, like restrooms, where they have a device at the company's headquarters at climate tech incubator Greentown Labs. Boxes also recently added a device at Hewlett Packard Enterprise headquarters in Spring, as part of HPE’s diversity startup program.

Boxes hopes to launch another sustainable innovation later this year, in universities and supermarkets. The company is also developing a device that would offer refillable detergent and personal cleaning products like shampoo and conditioner with a reusable container.

Since plastic packaging accounts for 40 percent of retail price, consumers would pay far less, making a huge difference, particularly for lower-income families, he says.

“We are working to make things happen, because we have tried to pitch this idea,” he says.

Some supermarket retailers worry they may lose money or market share, and that shoppers may forget to bring the refill bottles with them to the store, for example.

“It’s about..the U.S. customer,” he says, “….but we think that sooner or later, it will come.”

Boxes has gotten funding from the accelerator startup branch of Houston-based software company Softeq, as well as Mission Driven Finance, Google for Startups Latino Founders Fund, and Right Side Capital, among others.

“Our primary challenges are scaling effectively with a small, yet compact team and maintaining control over our financial runway,” Gojdycz says.

The company has seven employees, including two on its management team.

Gojdycz says they are actively hiring, particularly in software and hardware engineering, but also in business development.

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This article originally ran on InnovationMap.

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