OH Landowners Sue Rice, Ascent, XTO, Gulfport for Drilling Too Deep

Do you remember the child’s game called “Simon Says”? That’s what we were thinking when we read about a lawsuit in Ohio by landowners against a group of shale drillers. The lawsuit, initiated by several landowners in Belmont County, OH, claims the drillers drilled too deep–into the Point Pleasant rock layer–when the leases signed only mention the Utica rock layer. The lawsuit, which is seeking class action status, claims “unjust enrichment” by the drillers.
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9 Big M-U Companies Lost $2.6 Billion in Value During 1Q20

A word you will likely see a lot more of in quarterly updates by oil and gas drillers across the country is the word “impairment.” It’s an accounting term that means the value of an asset (leased acreage or wells) is adjusted, down, to reflect a company’s best guess as to how much revenue that asset can generate. We wrote about impairments back in 2015 (see A Basic Guide to Understanding “Impairments” for Marcellus/Utica). Largely because of impairments, nine of the biggest Marcellus/Utica drillers cumulatively lost $2.6 billion in value (on paper) during the first quarter of this year. However, two of the nine had no impairments. And one of the nine made a profit in 1Q20. Can you guess which one?
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Poison Pill Worked? Gulfport Big Investor Withdraws Board Picks

As recently as early March Gulfport Energy, a major driller in the Ohio Utica Shale, and its single largest investor, Firefly Value Partners (owns 13.1% of outstanding shares), were sniping at each other. Firefly was actively trying to pack the board of directors with its own nominees (see Gulfport’s Largest Investor Wants to Pack Board, Force Change). Two days ago Firefly announced a ceasefire. They will no longer attempt to get their own candidates elected to the board at the upcoming annual meeting. What changed?
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Gulfport Caps Utica Production, Delays Drilling to Late 2020

Gulfport Energy, the third-largest (by number wells drilled) producer in the Ohio Utica Shale, issued an update yesterday to its previous plans on drilling in the Ohio Utica (and Oklahoma SCOOP), revising down the amount of natural gas it will produce and revising down drilling activity previously planned for 2020. The company says it will delay until later this year/early next year more of its production than previously announced–due to ongoing low prices for natgas.
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M-U Drillers See New Interest from Bond (Debt) Investors

Wow! What a difference three months can make. In January Moody’s Investors Service downgraded EQT Corporation’s bonds to “junk” status (see Moody’s Downgrades EQT Debt to Junk Status Following Write-Down). A few weeks later Standard & Poor’s Global Ratings downgraded the credit rating for six of the biggest Marcellus/Utica drillers, including EQT (see S&P Downgrades Credit Rating for Six Big Marcellus/Utica Drillers). Once thought risky and speculative, investors seem to have changed their minds about investing in M-U debt. They’re taking a second look.
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Gulfport Energy Reports Q1 Loss, Shutting in Some Production

Last Friday Gulfport Energy, the third-largest (by number wells drilled) producer in the Ohio Utica Shale (210,000 acres) which concentrates its drilling in the Ohio Utica and the Oklahoma SCOOP plays, issued its first-quarter 2020 update. On paper, the company lost $517 million due to a one-time impairment charge (writing down of asset value) of $553 million. The company said on Friday it would “shut in a minimal amount production” over the next few months given the virus pandemic.
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Gulfport Energy Swallows a Poison Pill to Prevent Hostile Takeover

Like Chesapeake Energy last week and Williams in late March, the Gulfport Energy board has decided to swallow a poison pill. Some companies call poison pills a “stockholder rights agreement” or a “shareholder rights plan.” In Gulfport’s case, they call it a “tax benefits preservation plan.” It doesn’t matter what you call it, it’s all the same thing. It’s a provision that defends the company against a takeover.
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Marcellus/Utica Stock Prices Soar on News of Oil Price Crash

With yesterday’s historic crash in the price of West Texas Intermediate (WTI) oil comes a big boost in the stock price for a number of Marcellus/Utica drillers. As we’ve outlined multiple times, but will repeat here again, stock traders believe that with the crash in oil prices and U.S. shale oil drillers laying down rigs faster than we can count, the high volume of “associated gas” coming from the oilfields will vastly decrease. That means less supply in the market. With less supply and the same (or increasing) demand comes higher prices for natgas. And higher prices for natgas means more profits and likely more new drilling for Marcellus/Utica drillers. Hence, investors are snapping up stocks for M-U drilling companies.
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Gulfport Energy Hires Debt Restructuring Advisers

On Tuesday MDN told you that Chesapeake Energy has hired “debt restructuring advisers,” to help the company figure out how to stay afloat with $9 billion worth of outstanding debt (see Chesapeake Energy Hires “Restructuring Advisers”). Now comes word that Gulfport Energy, a major Utica Shale driller, has also hired debt restructuring advisers to help it with some $2 billion worth of outstanding debt.
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Judge Rules Tug Hill Not on Hook to Buy Gulfport OH Marc. Assets

A kerfuffle between Gulfport Energy and Tug Hill Operating has been settled by a Texas judge. Gulfport and Tug Hill cut a deal in November 2018 for Tug Hill to purchase certain Marcellus shale assets in Ohio from Gulfport for $26 million. According to Gulfport, Tug Hill never sealed the deal and should be forced to complete it now. Tug Hill said Gulfport didn’t come through with necessary releases from third parties related to the deal, and therefore the deal is null and void. The judge agreed with Tug Hill.
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Ohio’s #3 Utica Driller, Gulfport Energy, Slashes 2020 Budget 50%

Last Friday the Ohio Utica’s third-largest (by the number of wells drilled) shale driller, Gulfport Energy, filed its fourth-quarter and full-year 2019 update. The bad news is that the company lost just over $2 billion in 2019. The good news is that the entire loss was an impairment charge, a “paper loss” and not an actual, out-of-pocket money loss. When you dig deeper into the numbers, you’ll find the company actually produced free cash flow of $37.8 million last year.
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Gulfport’s Largest Investor Wants to Pack Board, Force Change

Last November Gulfport Energy, the Ohio Utica’s third-largest driller, announced they would lay off 13% of their workforce, end (for now) their stock share buy-back program, and “refresh” the board with three new members (see Gulfport Fires 13% of Workers, Ends Stock Buy-Back, Board Changes). Since that time they’ve added another two new board members, making the turnover five total (see Gulfport Continues Board “Refreshment” – 5th Change in 2 Months). Who lit a fire under Gulfport? That would be Firefly Value Partners, Gulfport’s single largest investor. Firefly and Gulfport are in another public spat over adding yet more new board members.
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Gulfport Continues Board “Refreshment” – 5th Change in 2 Months

Valerie Jochen

In mid-November Gulfport Energy, one of the biggest drillers in the Ohio Utica Shale (210,000 acres), announced they would lay off 13% of their workforce, end (for now) their stock share buy-back program, and “refresh” the board with three new members (see Gulfport Fires 13% of Workers, Ends Stock Buy-Back, Board Changes). Five weeks later and the company announced yet another new board member (see Gulfport Continues Board “Refreshment” – 4th Change in 5 Weeks). And now, a fifth new board member in just a little over two months. What’s going on?
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S&P Downgrades Credit Rating for Six Big Marcellus/Utica Drillers

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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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EPA Fines Gulfport $1.7M for Clean Air Violations in Ohio Utica

Yesterday the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced it has reached a settlement with Gulfport Energy over alleged air emissions violations found at 17 well pad locations Gulfport operates in the Ohio Utica. The violations happened in 2015. The settlement includes Gulfport paying $1.7 million in fines and spending another $2 million in “improvements” to cut down on volatile organic compound (VOC) emissions at the 17 well pads.
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Gulfport Continues Board “Refreshment” – 4th Change in 5 Weeks

In mid-November Gulfport Energy, one of the biggest drillers in the Ohio Utica Shale (210,000 acres), announced they are laying off 13% of their workforce, ending (for now) their stock share buy-back program, and “refreshing” the board with three new members (see Gulfport Fires 13% of Workers, Ends Stock Buy-Back, Board Changes). Here it is five weeks later and the company has just announced yet another new board member, the fourth new member in five weeks. What’s going on?
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