First-quarter 2021 bankruptcy data served up by Texas-based law firm Haynes and Boone LLP offers a kind of Rorschach test to contemplate: more companies declared insolvency than last quarter, but carried less debt.

Overall, though, bankers and lawyers believe fewer upstream producers in North America will need to reshuffle finances this year.

After a 2020 plagued by 46 companies seeking bankruptcy protection for more than $53 billion in debt, eight E&P companies filed for Chapter 11 in first-quarter 2021, according to a newly released report by Haynes and Boone. The bankruptcy tally for the first quarter, half of which were filed in Texas, was a small uptick after fourth-quarter 2020 saw six new bankruptcy filings by E&Ps.

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