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Chesapeake to buy Southwestern for $7.4 billion in all-stock deal

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LA Post: Chesapeake to buy Southwestern for $7.4 billion in all-stock deal
January 11, 2024
Reuters

(Reuters) - Chesapeake Energy said on Thursday it would buy smaller rival Southwestern Energy in an all-stock transaction valued at $7.4 billion, a deal that would enable the second-largest U.S. natural gas producer to take the top spot.

COMMENTS:

MICHAEL AINGE, RATINGS ANALYST, FITCH RATINGS

"Chesapeake is committed to maintaining an investment grade balance sheet following the acquisition, and an investment grade capital structure is integral to Chesapeake's strategy as it looks to enter into long-term LNG supply agreements for up to 20% of its production, which would allow for higher international pricing."

"However, international contracts would expose Chesapeake to fixed charges that may be burdensome in periods with low differentials between Henry Hub and overseas LNG markets."

ZHEN ZHU, MANAGING CONSULTANT, C.H. GUERNSEY AND CO

"From the production side, the merger could lead to more efficient E&P activities and lower production costs overall, contributing to more competitive U.S. gas prices domestically as well as internationally in the longer term."

"While the merger creates one of the largest independent gas producers in the United States, I am not concerned with the anti-trust implication of it as Chesapeake still needs to match the gas productions from some of the large integrated oil companies."

ANDREW DITTMAR, DIRECTOR, ENVERUS

"Low and volatile gas prices have been a significant hindrance to gas M&A ... Chesapeake's use of stock in the deal, as compared to a cash buyout, helps reduce the commodity price risk for the buyer while allowing the seller to participate in upside."

NEAL DINGMANN, MANAGING DIRECTOR - ENERGY RESEARCH, TRUIST SECURITIES

"Optimistic that the pro forma company will see multiple expansion as slower to act investors learn to appreciate the now larger entity's ideal position to lock in advantaged LNG agreements, rig/frac/transportation contracts, along with additional potential M&A."

"After adjusting for the deal, we are increasing our price target to $121 from $106."

ANALYSTS AT JOHNSON RICE AND CO

"Other Haynesville producers, most notably Comstock Resources, should benefit from improved market structure for producers in the play ... service companies with Haynesville exposure will probably see reduced pricing power in the play."

PETER MCNALLY, GLOBAL HEAD OF ANALYSTS, THIRD BRIDGE

"The challenge for Chesapeake and Southwestern will be to access more profitable parts of the natural gas value chain, particularly in the growing LNG market."

"Bringing Chesapeake and Southwestern together will reduce overall costs, but Third Bridge experts see little likelihood of these companies influencing the price of natural gas."

GABRIELE SORBARA, MANAGING DIRECTOR - EQUITY RESEARCH, SIEBERT WILLIAMS SHANK & CO LLC

"All in all, we view the deal as strategically sound and accretive longer-term with numerous synergies. However, the deal is negative near-term as it is dilutive to 2024/2025 FCF yield and net-debt/EBITDA on our initial take."

"As a result of a reduced FCF yield near-term, Chesapeake's pro forma capital returns are likely to take a step back, especially as it is likely to prioritize debt reduction over buybacks."

MATT PORTILLO, ANALYST, TUDOR PICKERING HOLT

"The transaction will create the largest pure play natural gas producer in the United States ... with the combined market cap likely opening the door for S&P500 inclusion."

"Scale will improve the company's position on the Gulf Coast, in our opinion, as it relates to unlocking and securing additional LNG opportunities ... the combined story likely attracts significant long-only attention as deal should place name alongside EQT as one investors will look to own in the 2025 upcycle."

(Reporting by Mrinalika Roy and Seher Dareen in Bengaluru; Editing by Shounak Dasgupta)

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