Chesapeake Energy Inc. (NYSE: CHK) parted with about $13 billion in assets last year in an effort to reduce the company’s massive debt burden. The sell-off for the new year is just getting started, and it has rolled out with a bang.
Reuters reports this morning that a source at Sinopec — China Petroleum & Chemical Corp. (NYSE: SNP) — said that Asia’s largest oil refiner will acquire 50% of Chesapeake’s oil and gas properties in the Mississippi Lime formation that straddles the Oklahoma-Kansas border for $1.02 billion. Sinopec paid about $2.2 billion to Devon Energy Corp. (NYSE: DVN) last January for a one-third interest in five of Devon’s shale plays.
Chesapeake already has sold more than $3 billion in assets to China’s CNOOC Ltd. (NYSE: CEO).
If the deal with Chesapeake follows the established pattern, Sinopec will pay some portion of the purchase price in cash and the remainder will be used to develop new wells in the Mississippi Lime play. Chesapeake reported production from the play of 32,500 barrels of oil equivalent per day at the end of December.
The interesting thing that could develop from this is a sale of a U.S. producer — not necessarily Chesapeake, of course — as a result of the recently approved $15 billion acquisition of Nexen Inc. (NYSE: NXY) by CNOOC. The U.S. approved the sale of the Canadian-based firm and may have opened the door for more aggressive bidding by China’s big state-backed oil firms.
Chesapeake’s shares are trading up about 1.5% in premarket activity this morning, at $20.80 in a 52-week range of $13.32 to $26.09.