(CHK)’s depressed valuation is making the company a potential target for acquirers willing to bet that natural-gas prices will rebound from a decade low.
Chesapeake’s equity and net debt are valued at $9.19 for each barrel of oil equivalent, the lowest among U.S. oil and gas explorers with market capitalizations greater than $5 billion, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. While a stock purchase by Carl Icahn helped the $11 billion company’s shares rebound in the past week, Chesapeake is still down 27 percent in 2012 amid investigations into Chief Executive Officer Aubrey McClendon’s personal loans backed by stakes in company-operated wells
The second-largest U.S. natural-gas producer said it may face a cash shortfall as early as next year after prices for natural gas, which accounts for 83 percent of its reserves, reached a 10-year low last month. While a buyer would have to cope with seven joint ventures and $13.1 billion of debt, Exxon (XOM)Mobil Corp. and Chevron Corp. (CVX) may see a chance to scoop up the largest holder of onshore drilling leases before gas prices rebound, said SunTrust Robinson Humphrey Inc.Royal Dutch Shell Plc (RDSA) may also be interested, said Huntington Asset Advisors Inc.
“For any of the major integrated oil companies that want to pick up reserves on the cheap, this would be a good one,” saidPeter Sorrentino, who helps oversee $14.7 billion at Huntington in Cincinnati. Chesapeake and other gas producers will be “worth a whole lot more than they are today. We’ll look back on this and say, ‘Wow, this was really an opportunity.’ There may be some people that end up kicking themselves.”