Chesapeake Said to Hire Evercore to Advise on Easing Debt Burden

Chesapeake Energy Corp. hired restructuring adviser Evercore Partners Inc. to help it reorganize $11.6 billion of debt as depressed natural gas prices have hit the company’s bottom line hard, according to a person with knowledge of the matter. 

The second-largest natural gas producer in the U.S. after Exxon Mobil Corp. is looking to shore up its liquidity by cutting its debt through a bond exchange or an asset sale, said the person, who asked not to be named because the hiring isn’t public. Earlier this month, Chesapeake asked bondholders to swap their junior debt for new, higher-ranked notes as it grappled with plummeting commodity prices, according to a company statement.

The Oklahoma City-based company is offering to give as much as $1.5 billion of new second-lien notes to investors who agree to swap their unsecured bonds mostly at discounts in exchange for a longer maturity, according to the statement. The deadline for the deal is Dec. 30.

Gordon Pennoyer, a Chesapeake spokesman, didn’t immediately respond to messages seeking comment.

Chesapeake, which was founded by Aubrey McClendon, has been struggling to sustain its debt load as natural gas prices tumble, hitting a 14-year low on Monday, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. The value of the commodity is collapsing as mild weather in the eastern U.S. this month dampens hopes that the surplus stockpile might be brought down soon. 

Chesapeake has been burning cash every year since 2001, Bloomberg data show. McClendon left the oil and gas producer in April 2013 under shareholder pressure as the company’s performance deteriorated after taking on an enormous amount of debt. The investor revolt was led in part by billionaire Carl Icahn.

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