With the Gulf in Chaos, Is It Chesapeake's Time to Shine?

Chesapeake Energy (NYSE: CHK  ) , which has recently been busy buying and selling assets -- largely in U.S. shale gas plays -- clearly is as good as its word.

Last month, the company announced its intention to raise as much as $5 billion during the next couple of years. Its stated goal was to pay down debt, such that it might merit an investment-grade rating. More specifically, the company's May announcement indicated that it would spend about $3.5 billion lowering debt, with the remaining $1.5 billion earmarked for the acquisition of promising properties.

Sure enough, as this week began, Chesapeake said that it had sold $900 million in convertible preferred stock to private investors and several prominent sovereign-wealth funds. Chesapeake has interests in most of the major gas shale plays in the U.S., including the Barnett, the Fayetteville, the Haynesville, and the Marcellus Shale.

With the April BP (NYSE: BP  ) and Transocean (NYSE: RIG  ) deepwater oil spill soiling the Gulf of Mexico more by the minute in what has become the biggest environmental disaster in U.S. history, Chesapeake's investors apparently had their interest aroused by the opportunity to participate in U.S. onshore plays.

The round's sovereign-wealth investors included the government-owned investment companies of China, South Korea, Singapore, and Abu Dhabi. A position was also reportedly taken by Japan's Daiwa Securities.

Chesapeake's latest financing follows the company's sale last month of $1.7 billion worth of convertible preferred stock. In that round, U.S. institutions took down $1.1 billion, with the remainder going to Asian institutional investors. The issues yield 5.75% and are convertible at $27. Chesapeake's shares closed at $23.66 on Tuesday.

The increasing presence of Asian funds clearly comes as interest in natural gas ratchets higher worldwide. Other deals have involved India's Reliance Industries forking over $1.7 billion in April to Atlas Energy (Nasdaq: ATLS  ) in exchange for a sizable position in the Marcellus Shale. Also, two months earlier, Japan's Mitsui paid $1.4 billion for about a third of Anadarko's (NYSE: APC  ) Marcellus holdings.

It has seemed to me for some time that natural gas might save us and our environment prior to the eons-away viability of renewable fuels. It now seems that Chesapeake, armed with this new cash from this round of funding, is ready to have an even brighter burning future.

Chesapeake Energy has been selected by the Motley Fool Inside Value team. Why not take a free 30-day test drive in one of our newsletters?  

Fool contributor David Lee Smith doesn't own shares in any of the companies mentioned. He does suggest that you send along your question, comments, or criticisms. The Fool owns shares of Chesapeake Energy. Try any of our Foolish newsletters today, free for 30 days. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.


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