Please see comments from Ascent Resources below in the 2/7/18 update…
We have to confess, we did not see this one coming. Ascent Resources Marcellus, a company founded by Aubrey McClendon after he left Chesapeake Energy, has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. Note that Ascent, which was spun off from the McClendon company American Energy Partners, has a split corporate structure. On paper there are a number of “Ascent Resources” companies: Ascent Resources, LLC; Ascent Resources Utica Holdings, LLC; Ascent Resources – Utica, LLC; Ascent Resources Management Services, LLC; and, Ascent Resources Marcellus Holdings, LLC. Same management team for all and frankly, as a practical matter, they are all one company. But it is the last one in the list, Ascent Marcellus, that is seeking bankruptcy protection. According to the company website, Ascent Marcellus focuses its drilling activity on 43,000 leased acres in West Virginia. Ascent Marcellus has a couple of loans it can’t repay, so it’s taking the bankruptcy route which will transfer ownership of that portion of the company from existing shareholder to debtholders. We’ve seen this movie before. Nobody gets screwed except existing shareholders–at least, that’s the theory. According to an announcement by Ascent, the “restructuring” as it’s called, will not affect landowners or vendors. This is “an operational restructuring and is not intended to restructure or compromise any vendor, service provider, contractor, lessor, working interest owner or royalty owner obligations.” Of course “intent” and reality are sometimes two different things. We’ll keep a close eye out as this develops…
2/7/18 Update: Ascent Resources sent clarifications to our statements and assumptions above. Below are Ascent’s comments as provided, verbatim. We thank Ascent for taking the time to comment.
Regarding the comment that they are basically the same company:
It isn’t all the same company. This is a very important distinction. There are several different companies with similar names that are managed by another separate company that also has a similar name. The Marcellus company always had separate assets in West Virginia, a separate capital structure and separate debt that was collateralized solely by the West Virginia assets. It’s not all the same company.
Regarding the comment that “Nobody gets screwed except existing shareholders–at least, that’s the theory.”
You should know that Marcellus private equity owners hold more than 75% of the stock and control the board, so they were integrally involved in determining the most appropriate outcome for shareholders as part of the Chapter 11 discussions. So “in theory” does not apply to the detailed plan of reorganization that has been worked out between the company’s owners and the creditors.