Chesapeake Energy Group (NYSE:CHK) may reconsider the sale of Chesapeake Midstream Partners LP (NYSE:CHKM). The firm was spun off from Chesapeake two years ago and Chesapeake is planning on selling the remaining share of it in a bid to raise money to stem its huge cash flow gap. That move, which has not seemed to have faced much opposition so far, now has a dissenter in the form of veteran activist Carl Icahn who wants to reexamine that sale.
Chesapeake Midstream Partners operates a huge amount of pipeline and other commodity transport services. About 45%, currently $1.6 billion, of the company is owned by Chesapeake and it still gets the majority of its revenue from dealings with the company. About 75% of Midstream’s revenue comes from Chesapeake. Midstream Partners is aiming to reduce the amount of business it does with its parent company to 50% by the end of next year.
According to some analysts Midstream offers Chesapeake a steady source of income that may well increase in the coming years. The company returns cash to its owners every quarter after capital expenditure has been taken out. Chesapeake is currently short of cash flow and getting rid of a unit that may indeed offer increasing income seems a bad idea in a period when steady incomes are rare at Chesapeake.
There are rather compelling arguments against the sale but what of those for it? Chesapeake needs to sell over $7 billion of assets by the end of the year in order to cover its loan covenants. That rating comes from Moody’s. Midstream may be undervalued at the moment because of its ties to Chesapeake but it is still an attractive buy for any firm. Chesapeake does need the cash.
On the other hand many are suggesting that Midstream is not the best use of Chesapeakes money. Investors want the company to concentrate on its core business and for some Midstream does not constitute that. That would leave the company drilling and exploring for all of its income. That strategy is not a winning one in the current natural gas market.
Chesapeake is planning on selling up to $20.5 billion in assets by the end of 2013. The company has been resurgent since Carl Icahn got involved in business there and closed trading today up over 6% to 16.52. The entire S& P 500 only grew by .01% today as fears from Europe and Facebook’s damping effect continue to effect movements on the market.