EQT Stops Fracking After Worker Gets COVID-19; Suspends Dividends

The Pittsburgh Business Times is reporting that a contractor working in EQT’s hydraulic fracturing (“completions”) operation who last worked at a site in Belmont County, OH has tested positive for COVID-19 coronavirus. Because that worker has been in contact with a number of other workers in EQT’s completions unit, the company has temporarily shut down all completions (fracking) operations. In a separate and unrelated announcement, EQT told investors they are (for now) suspending quarterly dividend payments and will use the money instead to pay down near-term debt.
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EQT Cuts Capex Another $75M, Cancels 15% of Pipeline Contracts

Yesterday EQT, the nation’s largest natural gas producing company, issued a press release to update investors and the marketplace on a couple of important issues. First, the company has sliced off another $75 million in previously-planned spending for 2020. The company now plans to spend $1.075 – $1.175 billion on drilling and other expenses this year. Second, the company “has entered into an agreement with a third-party to permanently release firm transportation obligations of approximately 400 MMcf/d, or approximately 15% of EQT’s current portfolio.” Translation: EQT was able to cancel 15% of the contracted pipeline capacity they had, lowering expenses.
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Marcellus/Utica Companies Switch to “Work from Home” Model

A number of Marcellus/Utica drillers and pipeline companies are taking action to slow and potentially stop the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus. Several companies (so far) have instituted mandatory work-from-home orders. Those companies include the Pittsburgh-based companies CNX Resources, Equitrans, and EQT Corp. By the time this is published more may have joined the list.
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EQT Loses $1.2B in 2019; Looks to Trim Debt by $1.5B in 2020

Yesterday the largest natural gas producing company in the United States, EQT, issued its fourth-quarter and full-year 2019 update. As is typical with these updates, EQT’s top brass (CEO Toby Rice) also spoke about the company’s strategy for the coming year. Of particular note is that EQT has struck a new deal with EQM Midstream (Equitrans) to get lower fees for gathering and piping the company’s natgas–a $535 million break in fees (see today’s companion story). Also of note was Toby’s comments about trimming the company’s debt load of $5.3 billion by about 30%, or $1.5 billion, this year. How does he plan to do that?
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Equitrans Merging in EQM Midstream, Lowers Fees for EQT $535M

Both EQT (the driller) and Equitrans (the midstream company) issued their quarterly/full-year 2019 updates yesterday. Equitrans, formerly EQT Midstream, separated from EQT in November 2018. Equitrans, via its EQM Midstream affiliate, gathers, processes, and flows most of EQT’s natural gas production, getting it to market. Last fall EQT began intense negotiations with Equitrans to lower its midstream costs (see EQT Hammers Equitrans to Lower Gathering Price – Deal Close?). The culmination of that effort was announced yesterday. In a complicated deal, EQT got Equitrans/EQM to lower gathering costs $535 million over three years, and chip in $52 million, in return for EQT giving up half of its ownership of EQM, signing a long-term contract, and signing a new $60 million water pipeline deal.
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Marcellus/Utica Drillers’ Stock Prices Near/At Historic Lows

The value of a company’s stock price is important, for a variety of reasons. The stock price reflects investor confidence in whether the company can earn its keep and grow profits in the future. A higher stock price wards off takeovers. Upper management gets a raise. And the company can borrow money when it needs to at reasonable interest rates. All sorts of reasons why the stock price is important. Unfortunately for top drillers in the Marcellus/Utica, their stock prices have tanked. As a group, and individually, the stock price is either near or even at the lowest it’s *ever been.* Let that sink in.
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S&P Downgrades Credit Rating for Six Big Marcellus/Utica Drillers

click for larger version

Large Marcellus/Utica drillers continue to take it on the chin in the financial markets. The stock prices for almost all M-U drillers have tanked, and now (at least for some of them), their credit ratings have been downgraded too. Standard & Poor’s Global Ratings recently downgraded the credit rating for six of the biggest M-U drillers…
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EQT Subleasing Most of its Downtown Pittsburgh Office Building

EQT Tower

EQT is downsizing its footprint in the city of Pittsburgh–again. Last October we told you that EQT was looking to sublease space in its mammoth downtown office building (see EQT Looks to Sublease HQ Space – Leaving Downtown Pittsburgh?). The EQT building has 32 floors. Lately, the company has occupied 15 floors. By next month EQT’s occupancy will shrink to just five floors. Is EQT getting ready to leave downtown?
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Moody’s Downgrades EQT Debt to Junk Status Following Write-Down

On Monday EQT, the nation’s largest natural gas producer (based in Pittsburgh) filed an update with the SEC to say it would write down the value (called an impairment) for some of it’s Marcellus/Utica assets–to the tune of $1.8 billion (see EQT to Write Down Up to $1.8 Billion in M-U Assets for 4Q19). Also in Monday’s update is the news that EQT is recognizing a 20% reduction in the value of its reserves (not as much as can be extracted profitably at current prices). Given Monday’s news, the analysts at Moody’s Investors Service downgraded some of EQT’s debt (notes), to junk status.
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EQT to Write Down Up to $1.8 Billion in M-U Assets for 4Q19

In a Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) filing made yesterday, EQT, the country’s largest natural gas producer, informed the SEC (and investors) it will likely take an impairment charge (“write down”) for the value of some of its Marcellus/Utica assets–by $1.4 to $1.8 billion. Which pales in comparison to Chevron’s write down of it’s M-U assets to the tune of $5+ billion (see Chevron Writes Down $5B+ in Marc/Utica Assets, Looks to Sell All).
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EQT Pays Big Money to Hire Former CONSOL Exec as CFO

David Khani

EQT has just lured CONSOL Energy’s chief financial officer (CFO) away and hired him–for BIG money. Big in our book anyway. David Khani was paid a signing bonus of $2 million and will get an annual base salary of $540,000 per year. Plus bonuses. Who says bean counters don’t make big money? Oh! And Khani has a connection to MDN’s home town too.
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LOLA Energy Files 2nd Lawsuit Against EQT for Trespass in SWPA

Last July MDN broke the news that LOLA Energy had filed a lawsuit in Greene County, PA against EQT for allegedly drilling shale wells under property EQT formerly leased, but property for which the leases had lapsed and were subsequently scooped up by LOLA Energy II (see LOLA Energy Sues EQT for Trespass, Drilling Wells Under LOLA Land). LOLA said they are the owners of those leases now and that EQT has drilled under some of their properties. In another MDN exclusive, LOLA has just filed a second lawsuit in Greene County against EQT for the same thing: trespassing on LOLA-leased property.
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Big M-U Drillers Slash 2020 Spending a Collective 25%

For months MDN has brought you bits and pieces of news from individual drillers, detailing plans to cut back on spending for new drilling in the Marcellus/Utica in 2020. It’s not just happening in the M-U–it’s happening across the country. The experts at RBN Energy have a terrific new post that pulls information about major drillers scaling back into one place. They analyze spending by three different groups of drillers: oil-focused, diversified, and gas-focused drillers. In the third category, all but one of the gas-focused drillers have major operations in the M-U. The stats are sobering. As a collective group, M-U gas drillers have pledged to cut their 2020 budgets 25% from the already-lower spending that happened this year. Ouch.
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EQT CEO Toby Rice Says WV Co-Tenancy Law May Not be Enough

West Virginia’s co-tenancy law was signed into law by Gov. Jim Justice in March 2018 (see WV Gov. Justice Does 180 – Says He’ll Sign Co-Tenancy Bill). According to speakers at the West Virginia Oil and Natural Gas Association (WVONGA) 2019 Fall Meeting, the new law is working pretty well (see WVONGA Meeting: New Co-Tenancy Law Working, Still a Few Kinks). However, EQT CEO Toby Rice told WV legislators yesterday that co-tenancy may not go far enough for his company.
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Last of EQT’s Old Mgmt Team Becomes President of Washington Gas

Donald “Blue” Jenkins

That was fast! In November MDN told you the last remaining member of EQT’s former top management team, Executive VP Donald “Blue” Jenkins, had proffered his resignation and would leave on Dec. 15 (see Last Remaining Member of “Old” EQT Exec Team Resigns). On Dec. 16, the very next day after leaving EQT, Jenkins became president of Washington Gas, a natural gas utility company in the Washington, DC area with more than a million customers. Blue landed on his feet.
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