Creditors agreed to sell the company to a joint venture between Bayou City Energy Management and Mach Resources, a company founded by U.S. shale pioneer Tom Ward. The price is nearly a third less than creditors had negotiated earlier this year.
Buyers set a closing for Thursday, a move that an attorney for Alta Mesa creditors slammed as "gamesmanship" for reducing the deal's value by more than $5 million. The price adjusts by $1.75 million for every $1 per barrel change from a $23 per barrel baseline price. The reference price is set two days before closing.
"We are disappointed and frustrated by what we see as gamesmanship by the buyer," attorney Caroline Reckler told the court. The delay came at the end of a day in which the oil reference price "took a tumble," she said.
Bayou City and Mach Resources did not immediately reply to requests for comment on the court approval or the timing of the closing.
Thursday could be a significant day for global oil prices with a scheduled meeting of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries to consider coordinated production curbs. Oil prices in March fell to the lowest in nearly two decades, souring an original agreement.
After bankruptcy court Judge Marvin Isgur asked if the two sides would accept a Friday closing to remove questions about pricing, an attorney for Bayou City opposed the idea and it was dropped.
"I'd resist a temptation to play with the price of oil," said attorney Gregory Pesce. "We're ready to close tomorrow morning."
The court also delayed action on motions seeking to require Bayou City and Mach to either stick to their original $320 million purchase price or face breach of contract claims. Those motions will be dismissed if the closing concludes on Thursday, the court said.
(Reporting by Gary McWilliams; Editing by Chris Reese)