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Chesapeake Energy Plunges to 20-Year Low as Street Loses Faith


By Michael Bellusci

(Bloomberg) Chesapeake Energy Corp. collapsed to a 20-year low Wednesday, one day after the shale gas driller warned it may not be able to outlast low fuel prices and issued a “going concern” notice.

Shares fell as much as 24% intraday to their lowest since 1999. The stock also briefly dipped below the $1/share mark, and Wall Street isn’t optimistic on Chesapeake’s future.

“While we don’t expect this move to come as a surprise given balance sheet issues, the going concern warning in the most recent 10-Q highlighted a declining leverage covenant that may be [to] difficult overcome in our view,” Tudor Pickering Holt & Co. said. The Houston-based energy investment bank on Wednesday downgraded its stock recommendation to a sell from hold.

Chesapeake’s Haynesville shale asset is the most likely candidate for a sale, though “production (and value) is declining by the day as the asset has entered base decline,” Tudor analyst Sameer Panjwani wrote in a note to clients.

Analysts see limited options for ailing gas driller

Meanwhile, Chesapeake’s $1.3 billion of 8% senior unsecured bonds maturing in 2025 dropped 3.5 cents to 60.5 cents on the dollar, Trace prices show. The bonds are trading at a record low.

Sanford C Bernstein is also bearish on Chesapeake’s survival prospects. Chesapeake could look to tap its revolver, or engage in more debt-for-equity transactions, but “neither of these options give us comfort about the prospect of the stock over the next 12 months,” analyst Bob Brackett said in a note. Bernstein cuts its price target to 50 cents from $1.25 per share, reiterating an underperform recommendation.



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