Chesapeake Energy raises 'going concern' doubts

(Reuters) - Chesapeake Energy Corp , once the second-largest U.S. natural gas producer, warned on Tuesday about its ability to continue as a going concern as the debt-laden company struggles with falling prices for the commodity.

Shares of Chesapeake fell 13% to $1.35 in early trading, with the company earlier in the day also having reported a marginally bigger than expected loss and a huge shortfall in production for the third quarter.

Chesapeake has about $10 billion in debt, nearly four times its market valuation. Much of that is a result of big spending when energy prices were high and acquisitions aimed at expanding in the oil-heavy Powder River Basin to combat falling natural gas prices.

The company said its ability to meet debt covenants in the next 12 months will be affected if oil and natural gas prices continue to remain low. (

A continuous rise in U.S. gas production - a byproduct of the shale oil boom – has prices for the fuel heading toward a 25-year low, with output outpacing U.S. consumption.

The company said average realized natural gas price fell 11.5% to $2.38 per thousand cubic feet in the third quarter.

Total production fell nearly 11% to 478,000 barrels of oil equivalent per day (boe/d) from a year earlier and missed analysts’ expectations of 490,664 boe/d.

Adjusted net loss attributable to the company was $188 million, or 11 cents per share, in the third quarter ended Sept. 30 from a loss of $8 million, or 1 cent per share, a year earlier.

Analysts on average had expected the company to report a loss of 10 cents per share.

The Oklahoma-based firm expects capital expenses to range from $1.3 billion to $1.6 billion for 2020, well below $2.11 billion to $2.31 billion set aside for 2019.

The company also plans to cut its 2020 production costs as well as general and administrative expenses by about 10% while expecting flat oil production year over year.

Reporting by Shanti S Nair in Bengaluru