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Chesapeake Exits Mississippian Lime in $500M Divestiture

Chesapeake Energy Corp. continued its cost-cutting binge in the fourth quarter, when it exited the Anadarko Basin’s Mississippian Lime play in a $500 million sale to undisclosed buyers.

In an ongoing effort to reduce debt and targeting cash flow neutrality in 2018, Chesapeake has dumped a quarter of its oil and natural gas wells in recent years. The company took in more than $1 billion in proceeds last year from divestitures. It said again in an update late Tuesday that the sales would continue this year.

Chesapeake’s latest sale of assets in the northern Anadarko Basin, and other properties in central and western Oklahoma, included 238,000 net acres and 3,000 wells that are currently producing 23,000 boe/d. One sale closed last month, while another two are expected to close in 2Q2018.

The company also netted $78 million after selling 4.3 million shares from oilfield service provider FTS International’s initial public offering, which was completed this month. Chesapeake has owned a significant stake in FTS for more than a decade and it still holds 22 million shares in the company.

Chesapeake said it would use the sale proceeds to pay outstanding borrowings under its revolving credit facility or to cut other debt.

“In 2018, we are committed to making meaningful progress in decreasing the amount of debt outstanding on our balance sheet and improving our margins,” CEO Doug Lawler said. “...We will continue to pursue additional asset divestitures in 2018 to further reduce debt and interest expense burden and accelerate value from properties that are presently not effectively competing for capital in our portfolio.”

The company still has assets in the Midcontinent. It also continues to work primarily in the Eagle Ford and Haynesville shales, as well as the Powder River and Appalachian basins.

Fourth quarter production was 593,000 boe/d, up 15% from the year-ago period and 10% sequentially when adjusting for asset sales. The quarterly volumes consisted of 100,000 bbl of oil, 2.6 Bcf of natural gas and 59,500 bbl of natural gas liquids per day. The company said stronger oil production from the Eagle Ford and better gas production from the Marcellus and Haynesville shales helped drive fourth quarter volumes.

Given its focus on capital discipline, the recent asset sales and a lower number of wells scheduled to be placed into sales due to extreme cold, Chesapeake is forecasting lower sequential production in 1Q2018 and flat production for the remainder of the year. The company plans to report fourth quarter earnings results on Feb. 22.

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