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Chesapeake Sells $4B of Assets in Biggest Cash Push of 2012 (Update 1)

Stocks in this article: CHK

Updated to reflect shareholder votes and added CEO comments

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Chesapeake Energy (CHK) sold its midstream assets to privately held Global Infrastructure Partners for $4 billion in its biggest deal of 2012 as a cash crunch looms.

The deal confirms previous speculation that amid an over $10 billion cash shortfall, Chesapeake Energy would look to sell the unit to raise much needed money. The move, which is Chesapeake's largest sale since questions emerged about CEO Aubrey McClendon's stewardship of the nation's second-largest gas driller, also comes amid a board shakeup that will give investors, including activist Carl Icahn, representation on its board.

In two separate deals, the Oklahoma City-based driller agreed to sell its stake in Chesapeake Midstream Partners and another subsidiary, Chesapeake Midstream Development, for a total of $4 billion. While the sales will help Chesapeake Energy to repair its finances, investors and analysts still expect billions more in asset sales.

"The proceeds of these transactions are an important part of our 2012 asset sales program that is on track to generate cash proceeds of $11.5-14.0 billion," said McClendon in a statement Friday.

McClendon stressed that the move brings Chesapeake's divestiture total to $6.6 billion for the year, with its Permian asset sale and Mississippi Lime joint venture among other businesses that will be sold in the second half of 2012.

"Importantly, the sale of Chesapeake Midstream will also reduce previously planned capital expenditures by approximately $3.0 billion over the next three years," noted McClendon.

Earlier in June, Chesapeake Energy said that following "extensive discussions" with its two largest shareholders, Southeastern Asset Management and Icahn, it had agreed to add four new independent directors to replace four existing independent directors who will resign from Chesapeake's board. Three of the new independent directors will be proposed by Southeastern and the fourth will be proposed by Icahn.

Friday's asset sale also coincides with Chesapeake's June 8 annual meeting, where several large pension funds submitted proposals for shareholder representation on the board, and the New York City comptroller had specifically asked for the removal of Oklahoma State University President Burns Hargis and former Union Pacific Chairman Richard K. Davidson as directors.

At Chesapeake's annual shareholder meeting on Friday, board directors Hargis and Davidson, who were part of the company's audit committee, offered their resignation after receiving less than 30% of shareholder support for their seats. Chesapeak said it would review the offers "in due course," in a statement on Friday.

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