Chesapeake Keeps Cashing In

When my Foolish colleague David Lee Smith characterized one of BP's (NYSE: BP  ) recent acquisitions as following in Chesapeake Energy's (NYSE: CHK  ) footsteps, he couldn't have been more prescient.

Just weeks later, the two firms have inked yet another major agreement. This time, the international oil and gas major is picking up 25% of Chesapeake's Fayetteville Shale assets for $1.9 billion.

BP isn't the only company to jump on board this Arkansas shale sizzler in the past year. XTO Energy (NYSE: XTO  ) has been a big buyer, while Petrohawk (NYSE: HK  ) paid a pretty penny for some prospective acreage, too. BP's payment of around $14,000 an acre actually comes in right around Petrohawk's purchase price.

Before all the Haynesville hoopla, the Fayetteville was looking like the jewel in Chesapeake's crown. Despite its recent overshadowing, this is still a terrific asset. Chesapeake notes that initial production rates are on the rise, while drilling costs are declining. So why is Chesapeake selling?

This deal is part of the same asset monetization program that spurred the company to sell off the Woodford to BP, and to divest a 20% stake in the Haynesville to Plains Exploration & Production (NYSE: PXP  ) . Not only are the joint venture-style deals bringing in cash up front, but the new partners are footing all near-term development costs. This allows Chesapeake to maintain a furious pace of drilling without issuing more debt or equity.

Chesapeake is also actively negotiating a similar venture up in the Marcellus Shale. Any progress on that front with a company like ConocoPhillips (NYSE: COP  ) or ExxonMobil (NYSE: XOM  ) would reinforce the majors' apparent appetite for onshore natural gas assets. It should also reassure energy investors that such assets are getting more attractive to potential buyers as prices fall -- not less so.

Chesapeake Energy is an Inside Value selection. See what other deep values the team has unearthed with a free 30-day trial.

Fool contributor Toby Shute doesn't have a position in any company mentioned. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.


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