EQT Corp. said in a regulatory filing on Monday it may incur a steep one-time impairment of up to $1.8 billion for the fourth quarter due to a new development plan and low natural gas prices.
Under a new management team that took over last July, the nation’s largest natural gas producer is aiming to aggressively cut debt and realign operations to boost performance and value. Management has outlined plans to cut debt by $1.5 billion by mid-2020, which it expects to achieve with a mix of initiatives, including asset sales.
The monetization, along with a decrease in the value of its reserves and the writedown of unproven properties no longer in the development plan, is likely to result in a 4Q2019 impairment of $1.4-1.8 billion, the company said in a Form 8-K filed with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. The figure could change as year-end results are finalized.
EQT also said that it would spend between $1.25-1.35 billion this year, or $50 million less than the budget issued in October, “reflecting continued operational efficiencies.” That would put the producer on track to spend nearly $600 million less than in 2019. The company also slightly tweaked priorities for the year, indicating 65% of capital expenditures would be for the Marcellus Shale in Pennsylvania, 20% would go toward the Utica Shale in Ohio and 15% would be spent in the West Virginia Marcellus.
Fourth quarter production is expected to average 370-375 Bcfe, or toward the high-end of previously announced guidance, according to preliminary estimates. The company produced 394 Bcfe in the year-ago period and 381 Bcfe in 3Q2019. It is guiding for 1.45-1.50 Tcfe of production this year, roughly flat to 2019 levels.
Averaged realized prices are also expected to average $2.51-2.56/Mcfe in 4Q2019, or below the 4Q2018 average of $3.13/Mcfe.
EQT also said Monday it would offer two new series of fixed rate senior notes. Moody’s Investors Service downgraded the company following Monday’s filing.
"EQT's significantly weakening cash flow metrics in light of the persistent weak natural gas price environment and the company's intent to refinance its 2020 maturities in lieu of debt reduction through repayment drives the ratings downgrade," said Moody's senior analyst Sreedhar Kona. "Although the company is pursuing several avenues to reduce debt and enhance its cash flow, the execution risk involved in those initiatives is reflected in the negative outlook.”
Operators across Appalachia are expected to slash spending this year and curb output in the years ahead as prices are earthbound on a glut of natural gas. Range Resources Corp., another Appalachia-focused operator, last week said it would cut year/year spending by nearly 30% and said a "significant noncash impairment charge" is likely for properties in North Louisiana.
Chevron Corp. also said last month that it expects up to an $11 billion impairment for the fourth quarter, with more than half related to its Appalachian assets. The company also said it’s evaluating strategic alternatives for its properties in the Northeast.
Other operators such as Cabot Oil & Gas Corp. with leading positions in Appalachia have cautioned that their preliminary outlooks for 2020 could be revised lower if the natural gas strip doesn’t improve.