Beleaguered natural-gas driller Chesapeake Energy (OTC:CHKA.Q) recently reported somewhat disappointing second-quarter results. Investors were not pleased that the company missed expectations after its adjusted net loss of $145 million, or $0.14 per share, was $0.03 per-share wider than the consensus estimate and marked the sixth straight quarterly loss for the company. That said, while the report was not great, the company did make progress, especially in three key metrics.
1. Production guidance increased by 3%
While Chesapeake Energy's financials are under intense pressure right now, its operations are outperforming expectations. Thanks in part to the company's optimized well-completion techniques, production across its portfolio was solid during the quarter, averaging 657,100 barrels of oil equivalent per day. In addition to that, the company continues to capture capital efficiencies and lower oil-field service costs, which puts it in the position to drill more wells with roughly the same amount of money. The net result is that it expects full-year production to be 3% higher than its initial guidance.
Overall, Chesapeake Energy is planning to drill more than 100 additional wells this year, without adding any capital to its budget. That said, the company expects to spend at the high end of its 2016 budget range of $1.3 billion to $1.8 billion. Still, the company's ability to get more out of the same amount of capital is an achievement.
2. $518 million of 2017 debt paid off
An even more significant accomplishment at this juncture is the continued progress Chesapeake is making to reduce debt. So far this year, the company has reduced total debt by more than $1 billion, to $8.7 billion. Moreover, $518 million of that reduction was debt that had the potential to mature next year.
Right now Chesapeake Energy's near-term debt maturities are weighing on the company because it no longer can refinance this debt and roll it out into the future. Instead, it has had to be creative to find ways to address its looming debt maturities, including using second-lien exchanges, debt-for-equity exchanges, and open-market repurchases. Those steps are working, with the company reducing its 2017 debt maturity liabilities by 38% since last September, resulting in $1.4 billion left to address.
3. Divestiture target raised to $2 billion
Assets sales have provided Chesapeake with a big portion of the cash it needed to both fund capital expenditures and address its debt concerns. For 2016, the company initially anticipated selling between $1.2 billion and $1.7 billion of assets to bolster its balance sheet. However, it now believes that it will be able to divest $2 billion in assets this year, having already sold roughly half that amount to date.
The reason the company is ratcheting up its asset sales target is that it is putting some of its Haynesville Shale acreage up for sale. According to analysts at Citigroup, the company has 150,000 net acres on the market, which they value at up to $1.25 billion. That might be a stretch, given that Chesapeake Energy recently acquired an additional 70,000 net acres in the Hayesville to bolster its core acreage position and only paid $87 million for that incremental acreage. Still, the company's confidence that it can sell another $1 billion in assets by the end of the year puts it in an even stronger position to manage its 2017 debt liabilities.
While Chesapeake Energy's financial situation is very tight, the company took several steps forward during the second quarter. In addition, it has improved visibility for further improvement. While challenges remain ahead of it, there is a growing likelihood that the company will be able to make it through the downturn without being forced to undergo a major debt restructuring in the bankruptcy courts.