Shares of Chesapeake Energy Corp. broke the buck Wednesday for the first time in over 20 years, as the oil and natural gas company’s “going concern” warning rattled Wall Street.
The 39.7% the stock has lost in two days is the worst two-day performance since the company went public in February 1993, passing the previous record of a 37.4% decline over the two days ending Feb. 8, 2016.
The stock hasn’t closed below $1 since it closed at 89 cents on March 5, 1999, which marked the 29th-consecutive close below a buck. The lowest close during that stretch was 71 cents.
Prices for Chesapeake’s most actively traded debt, the 8% notes due in 2025, also plunged Wednesday. The notes were changing hands at around 56 cents on the dollar in afternoon trading, according to data provided by MarketAxess, as the yields soared to over 22%. The yield spread was more than 2,000 basis points (more than 20 percentage points) over comparable Treasurys.
In Chesapeake’s 10-Q filing Tuesday with the Securities and Exchange Commission, the company said fluctuations in oil and natural-gas prices have a “material” impact on its financial position, cash flows and quantities of oil, natural gas and natural gas liquid reserves that may be produced.
“If continued depressed prices persist, combined with the scheduled reductions in the leverage ratio covenant, our ability to comply with the leverage ratio covenant during the next 12 months will be adversely affected which raises substantial doubt about our ability to continue as a going concern,” the company stated. “Failure to comply with this covenant, if not waived, would result in an event of default under our Chesapeake revolving credit facility, the potential acceleration of outstanding debt thereunder and the potential foreclosure on the collateral securing such debt, and could cause a cross-default under our other outstanding indebtedness.”
Analyst Sameer Panjwani at Tudor, Pickering, Holt downgraded Chesapeake to sell from hold, and lowered his stock price target to zero.
“While we don’t expect this move to come as a surprise given balance sheet issues, the going concern warning in the most recent 10-Q highlighted a declining leverage covenant that may be difficult to overcome in our view,” Panjwani wrote in a note to clients.
CFRA’s Paige Marcus also cut her rating to sell from hold, but lowered her price target by a third to $1.00, from $1.50.
“[Chesapeake] issued a going concern warning in its third quarter 10-Q related to concerns meeting its leverage ratio covenant,” Marcus wrote in a note to clients. “Given this warning, and with a borrowing base redetermination scheduled in Q4 and another in Q2 2020, we think [Chesapeake’s] lenders are beginning to get less lenient.”
Chesapeake’s stock is listed on the New York Stock Exchange. If the stock trades below $1 for too long, it risks receiving a de-listing notice.
The stock has now lost 32.5% over the past three months and 74.3% over the past 12 months, while the SPDR Energy Select Sector exchange-traded fund has lost 12.9% over the past year and the S&P 500 index has gained 11.6%.
–Ciara Linnane contributed to this report.