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Private equity-backed EP Energy Corp., along with its affiliated entities, has become the latest company to fall into bankruptcy, crushed by low commodity prices.
Seeking relief as it works to bring down about $3.3 billion in debt, the Houston-based company said Oct. 3 it voluntarily filed the petitions for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.
“Like other companies in our industry, we continue to experience challenging dynamics as a result of depressed commodity prices,” EP Energy CEO Russell Parker said in a statement, “and we have been very transparent about our ongoing efforts to actively manage our capital to control spending and preserve liquidity.”
He said the company has already reached an “an agreement in principle on a comprehensive restructuring with a number of its key creditors, but made the decision that the protection of Chapter 11 would help the parties get the deal over the finish line.”
Many oil and gas companies have struggled in recent years to overcome oil market volatility, racking up debt while being challenged to be more returns driven and more operationally efficient.
Court documents show EP Energy, which has assets in Utah’s Uinta Basin, South Texas Eagle Ford Shale and the Permian Basin, had $4.19 billion in assets and nearly $5 billion in debt as of June 30. The company had previously communicated it was evaluating strategic alternatives—bankruptcy included—regarding its finances.
The top five of its 30 largest unsecured claims are Wilmington Savings Fund Society, three claims totaling $688 million (secured notes); Storey Minerals Ltd., $43.8 million (litigation) and Halliburton Energy Services Inc., about $35.2 million (shipper, warehouse and lien holder), court records show.
EP Energy’s equity interest holders include affiliates of Apollo Global Management, 39%; Korea National Oil Corp., 12.3%; affiliates of Riverstone Holdings, 12.3% and Access Industries Inc., 13.7%.
Apollo, Elliott and other noteholders have agreed to backstop most of a $475 million equity rights offering as part of a proposed restructuring. The proposal also includes $629 million in financing to emerge from bankruptcy, court documents show.
“The transactions contemplated in the Restructuring Term Sheet will strengthen the company’s balance sheet by substantially reducing its debt, increase its cash flow on a go-forward basis, and preserve in excess of 500 jobs,” the document stated. “Subject to finalizing definitive documents with the Initial Supporting Noteholders, the plan will provide for a substantial reduction of the company’s existing funded debt by approximately $3.3 billion and reduce the company’s annual debt service obligations by up to $263 million.”
During the process, EP Energy intends to continue operating and improving its operational execution and capital efficiency, Parker said.
“The EP Energy Board and management team are confident in the strength of our assets and future of our business, and we would like to thank all our employees for their continued dedication,” he said. “Our entire team is focused on running the company and we are committed to working with our vendors, royalty owners, lessors and business partners just as we always have.”
A report released earlier this week by Haynes and Boone LLP shows the number of North American oil and gas producer bankruptcies has trended upward. As of Sept. 30, there were 33 bankruptcy filings—of which 27 were filed since the start of May. This compares to 28 filings total last year and 24 in 2017.
In August, EP Energy reported a second-quarter 2019 net loss of $50 million, ending the quarter with “$52 million, $355 million in borrowings outstanding on the RBL Facility and $27 million in letters of credit, resulting in $299 million of available liquidity and $4.6 billion of net debt.” Production for the quarter was 69,800 barrels of oil equivalent per day, including 37,600 barrels of oil per day.
Oil sales volumes mostly came from the Eagle Ford at 21,000 bbl/d, down from 25,800 bbl/d a year earlier. Gas sales volumes mainly came from the Permian at 46 million cubic feet per day (MMcf/d), down from 54 MMcf/d.
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