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Months after it restructured and emerged from Chapter 11 bankruptcy proceedings, Ultra Petroleum Corp.’s largest shareholder has hired an investment bank to explore “value-maximizing strategic alternatives” for the company.
Investment firm Fir Tree Partners, which controls nearly 19% of the common shares and has an economic interest in more than 22% of the stock, said this week Ultra “trades at a substantial and unwarranted discount” compared to similar exploration and production companies.
“Its deep, low-cost inventory, significant resource growth potential and absence of throughput issues that plague its Northeast peers is fully unrecognized in its current share price,” said Fir Tree Managing Director Evan Lederman.
Ultra has assets across the country, but the Pinedale and Jonah fields of southwestern Wyoming’s Green River Basin is its primary focus, where it has 69,000 net acres. The company also has 72,000 net Marcellus Shale acres in northern Pennsylvania and an 8,000-acre oil play in the Three Rivers Field of the Uinta Basin in northeastern Utah.
It’s unclear what exactly Fir Tree is exploring for Ultra. The company filed for bankruptcy last year claiming $3.76 billion of debt and emerged from restructuring in having raised $2.98 billion in exit financing to move forward.
Utra has increased spending significantly this year, while liquidity remains tight and debt is still an issue. The stock has traded between 16 cents and $8.75/share over the last year.
Fir Tree said it would work collaboratively with management to explore a “variety of initiatives” to maximize stockholder value. Financial analysts have suggested Ultra could rein in its spending, raise more equity or even pursue a strategic sale of the company.
Ultra also announced this week that its bank group approved a slight borrowing base increase to $1.4 billion from $1.2 billion. As of Sept. 15, the company said production stood at 796 MMcfe/d, up from the 738 MMcfe/d reported in the second quarter.