Chesapeake confident on asset sales, shares rise

Mon May 14, 2012 2:21pm EDT
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By Anna Driver and Matt Daily

(Reuters) - Chesapeake Energy Corp sought to calm Wall Street worries about its financial position, telling investors on Monday it was confident it would complete asset sales to plug a funding gap, sending shares up as much as 11 percent.

The stock rebound came after a steep drop last week and was driven by news late Friday that the company had secured a $3 billion loan, as well as a report that activist investor Carl Icahn would take a stake in the company.

"We will get our assets sales done," Chief Executive Aubrey McClendon told analysts and investors on a conference call.

Chesapeake has been caught in a corporate governance controversy since Reuters reported last month that McClendon had mortgaged his personal stakes in the company's oil and gas wells to companies that had lent money to Chesapeake.

Chesapeake is the second-largest U.S. natural gas producer behind Exxon Mobil Corp, but its aggressive land purchases have left it short of cash.

In addition, the sharp drop in U.S. natural gas prices to their lowest level in more than a decade has left it scrambling to find cash to cover a funding shortfall estimated at about $10 billion this year.

While analysts said the new $3 billion loan may ease the pressure on Chesapeake for the short term, it comes at a high cost for the cash-strapped company.

"To me it's a really big concern because they are spending about $200 million to borrow this money," said analyst Phil Weiss at Argus Research, who noted the interest rate on the debt increases if it is not paid back this year.   Continued...

Chesapeake Energy Corporation's 50 acre campus is seen in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, in this April 17, 2012 file photo. REUTERS/Steve Sisney/Files