Chesapeake Stock Takes a Beating After Reporting Lower Production

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Before Thursday’s opening bell, shares of Chesapeake Energy Corp. (NYSE: CHK) traded up around 5% on better-than-expected revenue and profit for the first quarter of this year. By the time the bell rang, the stock left the gate down about 2.7% and dipped as much as 8.8% in the late morning.

The 70% gain in crude oil prices and the 35% uptick in natural gas prices were not enough to cover up for production drop-offs. Chesapeake also reported capital spending of $576 million during the quarter, well above analyst estimates of $494 million.

As for production, total hydrocarbon production (oil, natural gas, and natural gas liquids) totaled approximately 528,000 barrels a day, short of an analyst estimate of 530,000 to 536,000 barrels of oil equivalent per day. In the first quarter of 2016, daily production totaled 672,000 barrels of oil equivalent and in the fourth quarter of last year, production totaled 575,000 barrels a day.

Analysts at Jefferies also noted particularly that Chesapeake’s operating cash flow was negative for the quarter, showing that the company spent $14 million more than it took in. Cash provided by operations (a GAAP measure), however, totaled $99 million, compared with a negative total of $421 million a year ago.

The company reduced its debt by about $900 million during the quarter, primarily from $892 million in divestitures. Drilling and completion costs rose to $433 million in the quarter, up from $265 million a year ago.

Jefferies also noted that crude oil prices have fallen to lows last seen in November 2016. Now it’s even worse. Crude traded at $45.82 in the lunch hour Thursday, the first time it has broken through the $47 floor that has been in place since December, and reached a level last seen in August 2016.

Chesapeake stock is being punished, down about 9% at $5.04 in the noon hour. The stock’s 52-week range is $3.56 to $8.20, and the consensus price target is $7.17. But does the punishment fit the crime?