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Chesapeake Energy Singing the Same Tune Amid Skepticism

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Although Chesapeake Energy's (CHK - Get Report) language has changed in terms of the assets it will sell to close a large funding gap, the company is not changing its tune: When it comes to executing on asset sales, forget about a hiccup or two and bet on Chesapeake Energy CEO Aubrey McClendon to prove that all of his detractors are worrywart Chicken Littles.

Skepticism has mounted on how Chesapeake Energy can engineer asset sales to escape a liquidity crisis. The skepticism hit a crescendo late last Friday afternoon when Chesapeake disclosed in a 10-Q filing the fact that asset sales could be delayed due to the risk of breaching debt covenants. Sales of producing natural gas and oil properties could adversely affect the amount of cash flow the company generates and the use of those producing assets as collateral in debt agreements.

After shares tumbled to a 52-week low on Friday afternoon, and after an 8 p.m. press release on a Friday night from Chesapeake announcing $3 billion in emergency Wall Street credit funding, McClendon said in a Monday morning conference call that the company won't be challenged to raise billions in needed capital.

Chesapeake Energy said the company won't monetize its Eagle Ford shale assets this year in a planned $1 billion volumetric production payment, and its oilfield services IPO may be pushed out to 2013 instead of 2012. However, the company said it still expects to raise billions through the sale of its Permian assets and a joint venture in the Mississippian Lime to meet the funding gap and maintain its debt covenants.

While the conference call dredged up all of the issues related to liquidity that have long trailed Chesapeake, shares of the embattled oil and gas giant received a lift on Monday morning when the Wall Street Journal reported that activist investor Carl Icahn could build a stake in the company. Shares were up roughly 7% at midday, making up for half of the Friday freefall. On Monday's call, Chesapeake Energy was happy to fuel that speculation. "We wouldn't be surprised if Carl became a large shareholder," said CEO McClendon.

The company is still in 2012 race to restore its liquidity, and investor confidence.

McClendon said during the conference call that the firm's biggest deals "remain on track." He also said that the $3 billion unsecured loan from its investment bankers Goldman Sachs (GS) and Jefferies (JEF) will give the company the financial flexibility to sell between $9.5 billion and $11 billion of non-core assets and transition its energy portfolio towards oil, amid a decade low in natural gas prices.
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