May 4, 2017 / 11:19 AM / 3 months ago

Chesapeake production falls more than expected, shares down

3 Min Read

Chesapeake Energy Corporation's 50 acre campus is seen in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, on April 17, 2012.Steve Sisney

(Reuters) - U.S. natural gas producer Chesapeake Energy Corp reported a bigger-than-expected fall in production on Thursday, even as it spent more than what analysts had estimated, sending its shares down as much as 8.4 percent.

The stock was also dragged down as global oil prices fell to their lowest since late November.

Chesapeake's production miss outweighed a better-than-expected quarterly profit that was helped by an uptick in crude prices after a more than two-year slump.

The company's production fell 21.4 percent to 528,000 barrels of oil equivalent per day (boepd) in the first quarter and was below Wall Street expectations of 530,000-536,000 boepd.

Chesapeake's capital expenditure of about $576 million during the three months ended March 31 was also well above analysts' estimates of $494 million.

"CHK continues to outspend cash flow to move back to growth," Jefferies analysts wrote in a note.

Oklahoma-based Chesapeake also raised the lower end of its 2017 capital expenditure forecast by $200 million to $2.1 billion, but retained the upper end at $2.5 billion.

Oil producers have been trying to keep spending within cash flows in an attempt to bolster margins at $50 per barrel, after years of piling on debt to fund production growth.

The company has been shedding assets to pay back its crippling $9.1 billion debt load.

The company is looking to sell more assets, Chief Executive Robert Lawler said on a post-earnings conference call.

Chesapeake raised the lower end of its full-year production forecast to 197.5 million barrels of oil equivalent (boe), from 194 million boe. It maintained the upper end of the range at 205 million boe.

The company reported a net profit available to shareholders of $75 million, or 8 cents per share, in the quarter, compared with a loss of $1.11 billion, or $1.66 per share, a year earlier.

The year-ago quarter included an impairment charge of nearly $1 billion as the company wrote down the value of some oil and gas assets.

Excluding items, the company earned 23 cents per share, above analysts' average estimate of 18 cents per share, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

Total revenue rose 41 percent to $2.75 billion in the quarter, well above estimates of $2.30 billion.

The company said average realized oil price rose 37 percent to $51.72 in the quarter, while natural gas prices rose about 32 percent.

Reporting by Arathy S Nair in Bengaluru; Editing by Shounak Dasgupta

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