Chesapeake Energy Corp. (CHK) shares plunged Tuesday, after being halted by officials on the New York Stock Exchange, amid reports that the shale oil and gas producer is preparing to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.
The potential filing, first reported by Bloomberg, could hand control of the Oklahoma-based group to the creditors holding around $9 billion in outstanding debt and send shockwaves around an industry struggling to cope with this year's 40% plunge in U.S. crude prices.
Chesapeake including a 'going concern' clause in filings with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission last month, and said it was evaluating strategic alternatives, including a Chapter 11 filing, while warning that it did not expect to be in compliance with its lenders by the end of the year.
"I wish people understood that common stock is the lowest ranked when it comes to bankruptcy," the Street's founder, Jim Cramer, told CNBC Tuesday.
Chesapeake shares, which once commanded a market value of more than $37.5 billion at their peak, were last marked 69.25% lower early Tuesday afternoon, following the resumption of trading at around 2:20 pm Eastern time, to change hands at $21.50 each, a move that would peg the company's market value at just over $210 million.
This year's crude collapse has added to the sector's woes and the broader market downdraft brought on by the coronavirus outbreak in late February.
A damaging price war between Saudi Arabia and Russia, meanwhile, following the collapse of OPEC's three-year production cut agreement in April that was only repaired by emergency pacts in May and June, has put even more pressure on the economic viability of shale output in the Permian, which analysts say requires a $50 per barrel price for oil for producers to break even.