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27 Dec 2006

Hegde Fund Funded Exco Doubles Oil Reserves

Exco Resources Inc. announced an agreement to buy producing oil and gas properties in Jackson Parish, Louisiana from Anadarko Petroleum Corp. for $1.6 billion, almost doubling its oil and gas reserves. The total acreage is approximately 66,000 net acres.

Exco's largest shareholder is legendary oilman and billionaire hedge fund manager T. Boone Pickens, who with his two hedge funds, owns 12.5% of Exco's outstanding shares. Pickens is also on the board of directors and this purchase is the largest of six announced this year by Exco.

Exco is the culmination of several acquisitions made in the last few years by Pickens and Exco CEO, Doug Miller. Pickens, 77, started Mesa Petroleum with $2500 in 1956, growing it into one of the world's leading independent oil and gas producers. He is also the founder and chairman emeritus of Clean Energy Fuels, the nation's largest supplier of natural gas to the transportation sector.

The fields are tapped by about 350 wells, and 96% of the proved reserves on the properties are in production, Exco said. The fields have proved reserves equivalent to about 466 billion cubic feet of gas of which 446 is producing today, Exco said. The acquisition also includes gathering systems, compression and treating plants.

Exco will use cash generated by the new fields to accelerate drilling on more than $2-billion of properties acquired since the public offering. The purchase of the Anadarko fields, expected to close in March, will be financed with a new revolving credit facility and a bridge loan from banks, Exco said in a separate statement.

Wine and Hedge Funds

Aside from the hedge fund millionaires investing in the land rich wine making lifestyle, a new trend is now being seen among hedge fund investors in the buying of premium wines. Merryl Lynch noted the surge in wine investment in their 2003 World Wealth Report, which found that the rich were devoting 13% of their assets to so-called alternative investments. The category also included art, hedge funds, and foreign exchange.

Peter Meltzer, author of the recently published "Keys to the Cellar: Strategies and Secrets of Wine Collecting," said in an interview with Reuters that six magnums of Domaine de la Romanee-Conti sold earlier this year for $170,375. "There has been a phenomenal growth in the collection of premium wines," said Peter Meltzer, the caretaker of the Wine Spectator index, a gauge of the most frequently sold premium wines, mostly Bordeaux and Burgundies. A single bottle of Chateau Latour 1955 sold with commission for $28,440.

Wall Street wine mavens interested in purchasing a Burgundy vineyard or expanding their investments, have the opportunity to invest in the some 105 million bottles of chardonnay white wines and 75 million bottles of pinot noir reds produced annually. There are about 4,000 “domaines” and 59 types of soil beneath the Cote d’Or’s 50-kilometer (31-mile) stretch.

It seems however, that buying a bottle of the stuff is less risky than trying to go for buying the vinyard “Owning a domaine is a venture capitalist’s dream, high in risk and if the weather is good and you’re really lucky, you might make a 4 percent return. But owning a domaine is the greatest lifestyle imaginable.” Says Wasserman, a vinyard owner in his own right.

It takes three years after the first harvest for the wine to be ready for market,” says Wasserman, who has been a Burgundy wine trader for 40 of his 62 years. “You’re not making a cent for three years, and then your buyers must wait a minimum of three to four years after that before they can drink it. Perfection wouldn’t appear until the wine is six to eight years old…..The land will cost you $6 million, and that will produce 90 casks of