A number of terrible headlines and management missteps combined to send Chesapeake Energy's (NYSE:CHK) stock down 77.2% in 2015. That being said, 2015 wasn't all bad news for the company. In fact, it did have a number of positive headlines that should give investors some comfort that the company might still have some gas left in its tank. Here's a look back at some of its best headlines in 2015.
1. "Chesapeake Energy (CHK) Stock Rallying After Two Notch Upgrade" -- TheStreet.com
Analysts have been very mixed on Chesapeake Energy: Some called it out for overspending cash flow, while others defended it. One of the boldest defenses came from an analyst at Sterne Agee CRT, who upgraded the company by two notches in late June. The analyst liked management's work toward mitigating its near-term liquidity issues, and upgraded the stock from underperform to buy, increasing its price target from $9 to $13 per share.
Analysts continued to argue about the company's future. More recently, an analyst at Citi said that its current debt load was unsustainable, which is a grave concern among investors. However, not everyone agreed with that assessment: An analyst at Morningstar came out with a rebuttal suggesting that a "default was far from imminent." Those types of positive headlines from analysts helped drive small rallies in the stock price, until someone else would come out with a worrisome headline.
2. "Chesapeake and Williams Reach Natural Gas Gathering Deal" -- FuelFix
In September, Chesapeake unveiled one of its best moves of the year by renegotiating its gathering contract with Williams Companies (NYSE:WMB) and its MLP Williams Partners (NYSE:WPZ). For Chesapeake, the deal will net it a lower rate for gas-gathering services in the Haynesville and dry gas Utica shale regions. That will improve its economics in both plays, enabling it to continue to grow production.
In exchange, Williams will be guaranteed more income in the future as a result of higher volumes. Further, Williams' assets will now be supported by fee-based contracts, which locks in its cash flow, and helps to insulate it from commodity price volatility.
While the deal was a real win-win for both companies, it really helps out Chesapeake Energy. The company expects to save roughly $0.25 per MMBtu, which, at the time, equated to roughly 10% of the price of natural gas. That's a pretty big bump in cash flow for a company that needs all the cash it can get.
3. "Chesapeake Cuts Capex Again & Boosts Production Guidance, Preparing For Leaner Times Ahead" -- OilPro
One of Chesapeake Energy's biggest successes this year was its ability to deliver more production for less money. That success was most evident when it reported its third-quarter results because it boosted its production guidance again while lowering its capex budget for the second time this year.
While the argument could be made that the company should have lowered its spending even further and curtailed production growth, the company is now able to produce more for less money, which is clearly a step in the right direction. The hope is that the company can significantly cut its spending in future years, leading to a much more sustainable operating company amid lower prices.
Without a doubt, 2015 has been a very difficult year for Chesapeake Energy. However, amid the troubles, the company has had a couple of notable successes, including its gathering deal with Williams, as well as its ability to produce more for less money. These successes have won over a number of analysts who remain positive on the company, and believe that it can still pull through the downturn without being forced to restructure in bankruptcy.
The company still faces a steep hill to climb given its large debt load, which is getting tougher to maintain as commodity prices continue to weaken. Only time will tell if it can make it through to the eventual recovery.