Chesapeake Energy Corp. on Thursday completed the sale of its Fayetteville Shale properties to a subsidiary of Australia's BHP Billiton Ltd.

The Oklahoma City-based driller announced plans to shed the Arkansas properties in early February and before the month was out, BHP Billiton Petroleum had agreed to pay $4.75 billion cash for the portfolio (see Shale Daily, Feb. 23; Feb. 8).

The gassy shale properties are the first to be acquired by BHP Billiton in the U.S. onshore, and the producer could assume Chesapeake's title as the second largest gas producer in the Fayetteville after Southwestern Energy Co. Southwestern has 888,695 net acres in the play; ExxonMobil Corp. is the third-largest leaseholder with 567,000 net acres.

"This transaction allows Chesapeake to achieve substantial progress in implementing the debt-reduction targets of our previously announced 25/25 plan," said CEO Aubrey K. McClendon (see Shale Daily, Feb. 24; Jan. 7).

Chesapeake, he said, plans to replace the Fayetteville production "through substantial growth from our other world-class natural gas plays and also from our rapidly growing higher margin liquids-rich plays in the years ahead."

As part of the transaction Chesapeake agreed to provide technical and business services to the new owner for up to one year for an undisclosed fee.