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TheStreet Open House

Icahn Wins Chesapeake Energy Board Battle

Stocks in this article: CHKXOM

As Icahn talks up board change, Chesapeake Energy is separately putting new oil and gas assets up for sale to meet its funding needs. In late May, Chesapeake Energy listed 57,000 acres for sale in the Woodbine shale play of East Texas, according to a prospectus from energy asset M&A boutique Meagher Energy Advisors, said its president Matthew Meagher. Last week, Chesapeake listed a prospectus for 503,863 of net acres for sale in the DJ Basin of the Niobrara shale of Colorado and Wyoming.

Icahn argued that shareholder representation could help instill discipline and a more singular focus on asset sales.

" For year-end debt to not exceed $12bn (4x $3.0bn), then asset monetizations must reach at least $5.0bn," noted Citigroup analyst Robert Morris in a May note to clients. "Without any asset sales, CHK would be non-compliant with its revolving bank credit facility at year end unless spending was cut sharply." Chesapeake expects to cover much of its funding gap through the sale of its Permian assets and a joint venture in the Mississippian Lime, while maintaining its debt covenants -- it recently shelved a planned $1 billion Eagle Ford transaction.

One Wall Street analyst who, like McClendon and Icahn think Chesapeake's asset value is far higher than its current share price, didn't view Icahn's stake or activist call as cause for an upgrade. "Our hold rating is a function of a nearer term outlook that significantly exposes shareholders to market & commodity risk, however the prospect for real strategic change does bear watching," wrote Deutsche Bank analyst Stephen Richardson in a late May note to clients. He estimates Chesapeake Energy's assets are worth $35 a share with oil at $95 a barrel and gas trading at $4.50.

Oil fell to its lowest price in 2012 last Friday, below $83, while natural gas is hovering around the $2.40 mark after dropping below $2 earlier this year.

For more on Carl Icahn, see his investment portfolio. For more on energy stocks, see the energy stocks bought and sold by hedge funds in the latest quarter.

See 5 ways Chesapeake Energy can be saved from itself for more on how it can initiate a share turnaround.

-- Written by Antoine Gara in New York

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