Rice Energy registers intent to become a public company

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Canonsburg-based Rice Energy Inc. has declared its intent to become a public company, but it will be another few weeks before the oil and gas company's registration statement with the Securities and Exchange Commission will be available to the public.

Rice filed a confidential draft registration statement with the SEC, taking advantage of a newly created way to let the government know a company intends to go public without giving away all the corporate secrets until three weeks before that company intends to start asking investors for money.

The option was made possible thanks to the 2012 federal JOBS Act, and can be used by "emerging growth companies," or those with less than $1 billion in gross receipts.

Jamie Rogers, chief accounting and administrative officer at Rice, said Monday that a public filing will follow in the next month. The company hopes to start selling shares in the first quarter of next year.

"It's been an exciting past four months," Mr. Rogers said.

Rice Energy was founded by former BlackRock portfolio manager Dan Rice in 2005. Today, it is run by his three sons, Daniel, Toby and Derek.

Until recently, Rice Energy's focus has been on tapping oil and gas resources in the Marcellus shale region in Southwestern Pennsylvania, but the company also has been leasing land in Ohio and is "in the process of drilling our first well in the Utica [shale]," Mr. Rogers said Monday.

According to the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, Rice has drilled 48 wells, most of them in Washington County and many named after superheroes. There's the Hulk, X-Man, Ultimate Warrior, Captain Planet, Zorro and Batman.

Rice has also drilled 34 wells in Greene County as part of a joint venture with Virginia-based coal producer Alpha Natural Resources. The two companies signed a deal in 2010 to develop Alpha's Marcellus holdings in Greene County. Rice was the driller and received a 50 percent interest in the joint venture.

On Monday, Alpha announced that it will sell its 50 percent interest to Rice in exchange for $100 million in cash and $200 million in Rice stock once that company goes public.

Alpha isn't just investing in Rice, it has also secured a seat on Rice's board of directors. Kevin Crutchfield, Alpha's chairman and CEO, will be appointed to the board of the newly public company.

Rice is also backed by Texas-based Natural Gas Partners, which invests private equity money into oil and gas companies.

Anya Litvak: alitvak@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1455

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