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Warren Resources Succumbs to Downturn, Files For Bankruptcy

After months of trying to reach an out-of-court agreement with its creditors and bondholders, Warren Resources Inc. became one of the latest oil and natural gas producers to succumb to the commodities downturn, filing voluntary petitions for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection on Thursday.

The company filed in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of Texas, listing $230 million in assets and debts of $545 million, according to court documents. The company disclosed in those filings that it has reached a debt-for-equity swap with first lien lender GSO Capital Partners of the private equity firm Blackstone Group LP.

Under the restructuring agreement, GSO would exchange its $248 million in Warren debt for an 82.5% stake in the post-bankruptcy company. The firm would also provide a $130 million loan for operations after the reorganization and provide up to $20 million of debtor-in-possession financing to help fund the company during bankruptcy proceedings.

Second lien lender Claren Road Asset Management LLC, a hedge fund owned by Carlyle Group LP, noteholders and Citrus Energy Corp., which was folded into Warren after it acquired the company in 2014, would split the remaining 17.5% stake in the company after it exits bankruptcy.

Warren brought its first two Marcellus Shale wells online in Northeast Pennsylvania in 2015, about a year after it acquired privately-owned Citrus for $352.5 million (see Shale Daily, Aug. 18, 2015July 8, 2014). The company also has waterflood oilfield recovery operations in California and coalbed methane assets in Wyoming.

Warren said it expects to continue normal operations during the bankruptcy proceedings and anticipates making royalty payments and payments to working interest owners when due, subject to the court's approval.

Earlier this year, the company defaulted on a $7.5 million interest payment for its 9% senior unsecured notes that was due on Feb. 1, saying consistently low oil prices and a need to rework its debt led to the missed payment.

It has repeatedly warned of the possibility of bankruptcy since then and has updated investors periodically on its efforts to restructure its debt since the beginning of the year (see Shale DailyApril 6March 14Feb. 9). The company is one of dozens of exploration and production companies that have filed for bankruptcy since oil prices began falling in mid-2014.

The company initiated a series of cost-cutting moves beginning last October when it moved its corporate headquarters from New York City to Denver (see Shale DailyOct. 1, 2015). It closed the New York office and another in Roswell, NM, and eliminated staff at those locations to save money.

It had cut its capital expenditures budget and idled this year's drilling program. The company has also faced stock compliance issues with the Nasdaq. Warren made its first appearance in bankruptcy court on Friday in Houston.

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