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Banks

Shale driller Chaparral Energy files for bankruptcy due to pandemic woes

(Reuters) - Oklahoma shale driller Chaparral Energy Inc filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection on Sunday, the latest U.S. energy sector casualty in recent months as COVID-19 crushes oil demand.

The company’s assets and liabilities were in the range of $500 million to $1 billion, according to a court filing in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Delaware. It had around $421 million of debt outstanding at the end of 2019.

Chaparral said it will restructure its balance sheet by equitizing all $300 million of its unsecured debt and will operate during the bankruptcy process with the help of $32 million in cash on hand as of Aug. 14 and operating cash flow.

Lenders have been reining in on credit for shale drillers and Chaparral’s borrowing limit was recently reduced to $175 million from $325 million. Reuters reported in March Chaparral was working with debt restructuring advisers to shore up its cash position.

This is the second time the company has filed for bankruptcy protection. The last time was during the oil price slump in 2014-16, from which it emerged in March 2017.

In a separate filing on Sunday, Chaparral’s debtors said they have started the Chapter 11 cases to implement a “prepackaged plan of reorganization”.

A trustee or examiner has not yet been requested and no committees have been appointed yet, the court filing said.

Chaparral had in May warned of its ability to continue as a going concern amid a historic plunge in commodity prices and said it had hired legal and financial advisers.

In recent months, debt-laden major shale independents such as Chesapeake Energy and Whiting Petroleum have succumbed to one of the worst crises in the oil industry. California Resources Corp also filed for Chapter 11 after defaulting on interest payments.

A fall in economic activity due to the pandemic and a price war between top oil producers Russia and Saudi Arabia had resulted in crude dropping below $0 in April for the first time in history.

Reporting by Kanishka Singh in Bengaluru; Editing by Shailesh Kuber and Arun Koyyur

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