Trouble Ahead for Drillers if U.S. Comptroller Downgrades Loans

Fitch RatingsMore trouble may be ahead for drillers in the Marcellus, Utica and beyond. Fitch Ratings has just released a report that says the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC)–a federal agency–is set to downgrade the ratings of loans for many exploration and production (E&P) companies that are considered “high yield” (HY). If the outstanding loans these companies have (and most of them, if not all of them, have outstanding loans), the downgrade means it will be much more difficult for drillers to get their hands on new money. And if they can somehow get their hands on new money, it’s going to cost them a lot more to do it, i.e. higher interest rates. Word on the street is that banks are feeling the pressure from the Federal Reserve and the OCC and will “reduce most energy company credit lines by roughly 20-40 percent this month.” Ouch. Banks have pretty much quit financing coal projects. According to one source, “Crude oil and natural gas productions may not be far behind.” Here’s the low down…

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