SandRidge, Breitburn join wave of energy bankruptcy filings

(Reuters) - SandRidge Energy Inc SDOC.PK and Breitburn Energy Partners LP BBEP.O filed for bankruptcy protection on Monday, the latest in a surge of Chapter 11 filings among U.S. energy producers.

An electronic display identifies the post that trades SandRidge Energy stock on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange, January 11, 2013. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

The biggest U.S. energy price crash in a generation has now pushed more than 60 North American oil and gas producers to seek protection from creditors since early 2015, regulatory filings show.

As of March 31, SandRidge estimated it had total assets of $7.0 billion and total debt of $4.0 billion, and Breitburn listed assets of $4.7 billion and liabilities of $3.4 billion.

In the past three weeks, producers with about $25 billion in debt have filed for U.S. bankruptcy protection as increasingly larger oil-and-gas companies have succumbed to weak energy prices.

Small oil and gas producers have largely exhausted funding alternatives after issuing more equity and debt and shedding assets over the last two years to stay afloat.

SandRidge reached a pre-packaged bankruptcy pact with lenders. It has agreed on a reserve-based lending facility and a swap of about $3.7 billion of other funded debt for equity.

The Oklahoma City-based company said it expected to fund its operations and capital programs until it emerges from Chapter 11, without the need for debtor-in-possession financing or other additional capital.

SandRidge, which produces oil and gas from shale formations in Oklahoma and Kansas, was founded in 2006 by Tom Ward, who also helped start natural gas company Chesapeake Energy Corp CHK.N. SandRidge's board ousted Ward, a pioneer of the U.S. fracking boom, as chief executive officer in June 2013 after a fight with activist shareholders.

Breitburn said it secured $75 million in debtor-in-possession financing that, with cash on hand and from operations, would fund its operations during the bankruptcy process.

“Recent asset sales have been terrible and that’s why you’re seeing this wave of restructuring of debt rather than sales,” said Deborah Williamson, a Dykema restructuring attorney in San Antonio. “Creditors seem to be leaning toward a restructuring process that exchanges debt for new equity ownership and waiting out a recovery in oil prices.”

Few struggling energy companies have been able to find buyers, although there was a rare exception on Monday as Range Resources Corp said it will buy fellow natural gas producer Memorial Resource Development Corp MRD.O for about $3.3 billion in stock.

Recent bankruptcy filings include Linn Energy LLC LINE.O, Penn Virginia Corp PVAH.PK, Chaparral Energy Inc CHARN.UL, Midstates Petroleum Co Inc MPOYQ.PK and Ultra Petroleum Corp UPLMQ.PK.

Although oil prices hit a six-month high on Monday, stocks of financially distressed energy producers were lower.

Shares of Exco Resources Inc XCO.N were down sharply for a second day after it said on Friday it would evaluate alternatives, including bankruptcy.

Canadian oil and gas producer Penn West Petroleum Ltd PWT.TOPWE.N on Monday raised doubts about its ability to continue, sending its stock down 22 percent.

Shares of Stone Energy Corp SGY.N and Warren Resources Inc WRES.O were both down more than 4 percent.

Debt-laden Chesapeake, the second-largest U.S. natural gas producer, said last week it would issue 4 percent of its outstanding shares in exchange for notes.

Reporting by Arathy S Nair in Bengaluru; Tom Hals in Wilmington, Delaware; Tracy Rucinski in Chicago; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn and Alan Crosby