Chesapeake Energy & Other Natural Gas Companies Struggle in Utica

Chesapeake Energy & Other Natural Gas Companies Struggle in Utica
Chesapeake Energy Corporation (NYSE:CHK) has been banking heavily on the success of its Utica Shale exploration. But raising capital from investors is not proving to be easy for Chesapeake and other oil and natural-gas explorers in Ohio, so the next big boom in US oil and gas might be slower than expected. In addition to Chesapeake, companies like PDC Energy Inc (NASDAQ:PDCE), Gulfport Energy Corporation (NASDAQ:GPOR), Rex Energy Corporation (NASDAQ:REXX) and Magnum Hunter Resources Corp (NYSE:MHR), have stakes in the Utica shale reserves.
Chesapeake Energy & Other Natural Gas Companies Struggle in Utica
PDC Energy Inc (NASDAQ:PDCE) has decided to spend $50 million to develop assets in the Utica Shale, after it failed to raise a large enough bid for partnership. The company’s holdings in the exploration include drilling rights to 45,000 acres in Utica shale. PDC was looking to lower the risk associated with its assets by striking a joint partnership, but said in its statement on Wednesday that the risks are no longer a threat, as initial production rates and high liquids content reports from other explorers were looking strong.  The capex for FY2012 was estimated to reach $288 million, of which $95 million is reserved by PDC for Utica shale.  PDC opened at $32.60 yesterday and closed at $30.99.

The failure of PDC to rope in a higher bid could have crucial ramifications for Chesapeake.The second largest US natgas producer is also looking for a partnerfor its Utica assets. Chesapeake Energy Corporation (NYSE:CHK) is stressed from the widening gap between its cash inflow and expenditures. It recently sold off 46 percent of its stake in its affiliate, Chesapeake Midstream Partners, and has been selling off several other assets as well. The company needs to close an overall budget gap of an estimated $22 billion. McClendon, CEO of Chesapeake is looking for a partner to lease its 1.3 million acre holdings in Utica for next year. The deal should raise at least $4.25 billion to make up for funding gaps.

Bloomberg reports that Neal Dingmann, an analyst at SunTrust Robinson Humphrey Inc, thinks that it is unlikely that Chesapeake will get anything close to $15,000/ acre for its holdings in the Ohio region. Last year, France’s Total S.A (EPA:FP) (NYSE:TOT) spent $15,000 an acre for share in Chesapeake’s Utica fields. Chesapeake Energy Corporation (NYSE:CHK) staked 542,000 Utica acres for $2.03 billion on Dec. 30 to Total.

Mark Hanson, analyst at Morningstar Investment Services in Chicago, is also not very excited about how big Utica Shale is going to be.

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“The numbers are going the wrong way,”  remarked Hanson,“This indicates it’s still too early to say the Utica is the next big thing.”


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