November 3, 2011 / 10:51 PM / 8 years ago

Chesapeake Energy has $3.4 billion Utica deals

(Reuters) - Chesapeake Energy Corp (CHK.N), the second-biggest U.S. producer of natural gas, is planning two deals totaling $3.4 billion for some of its acreage in the Utica Shale in Ohio.

The company, which faces a funding gap and needs the cash it generates from joint ventures and other deals, had promised investors a Utica deal that would monetize some of its 1.5 million acres by the end of October

Utica acreage, sought by many companies including Exxon Mobil (XOM.N), is believed to hold vast amounts of oil and natural gas.

Striking the deals means that Chesapeake’s Utica drilling program is “almost entirely funded for the foreseeable future,” Aubrey McClendon, Chesapeake’s chief executive officer, said in a statement.

Shares of Chesapeake traded 5 percent higher after the close of regular trading.

Chesapeake said on Thursday it entered into a letter of intent with an undisclosed international major energy company for a joint venture. As part of a $2.1 billion deal, the partner will acquire a 25 percent interest in about 570,000 acres of the company’s leasehold in the area of the Utica Shale that produces gas with a high liquids content.

Chesapeake spokesman Michael Kehs said the company’s Utica JV partner is “somebody big enough for this deal not to be material.”

“We are treating our partner like a customer and are following the customer’s wishes. We will disclose when the deal closes,” Kehs said.

EnerVest, which owns around 80,000 acres in the area, will also participate in that partnership, the company said.

Chesapeake also said it completed the sale of $500 million of preferred shares of a newly formed entity, CHK Utica LLC, to energy investment firm EIG Global Energy Partners. The company said it expects to sell an additional $750 million preferred CHK Utica shares.

Phil Weiss, oil analyst at Argus Research, said he had expected a less complex Utica deal, structured more like past pacts Chesapeake has signed with companies including BP Plc (BP.L) and CNOOC (0883.HK).

“These deals sure sound rushed,” Weiss said.

Chesapeake also reported higher third-quarter earnings that topped Wall Street expectations.

Profit in the third quarter was $879 million, or $1.23 per share, up sharply from $515 million, or 75 cents per share, in the year-ago period.

Excluding one-time items, Chesapeake has a per-share profit of 72 cents per share. On that basis, Wall Street analysts on average had expected a profit of 66 cents per share, according to data from Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

Oil and gas output rose 9 percent to 3.329 billion cubic feet equivalent per day.

Shares of Chesapeake rose to $30.51 after closing at $29.03 on the New York Stock Exchange.

Reporting by Anna Driver in Houston; Editing by Gary Hill

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