China's Sinopec Looking To Buy Billions In Chesapeake Assets

Remember "What Is The Upside In Chesapeake?" from 3 weeks ago, where we said, "one thing is certain: the company has lots of good assets, as well as quite a few legacy liabilities, combined with an industry environment that is as bad as it has ever been. And sure enough, in betting that the environment might actually improve for a change, there are quite a few big firms which may be happy to onboard the assets and the liabilities, knowing they wouldn't impair the right side of their balance sheet, while acquiring some good real estate and substantial reserves on the left, at a valuation that is the cheapest in the industry. Because in finance, once central planning is (finally) stripped away, valuation is all that matters."

Today we read in the FT:

Sinopec, the Chinese oil and gas group, is considering bidding for billions of dollars worth of assets owned by Chesapeake Energy, the US gas producer.


Fu Chengyu, head of Sinopec, was in Oklahoma in the US this week in connection with the company’s due diligence on the Chesapeake assets, according to people familiar with the move.


By buying assets rather than making a bid for the company itself Sinopec hopes to minimise the sort of political backlash that forced Cnooc to drop its $18.5bn bid for Unocal in 2005, bankers and oil executives say. Chesapeake Energy has been hit hard by low natural gas prices in the US and is in the midst of an asset disposal programme to help reduce its debt; while its shares have fallen 25 per cent from their March peak.


Mr Fu’s vision is to shift Sinopec’s focus to upstream oil and gas production, where margins are higher. “The Achilles heel of Sinopec is the lack of oil and gas reserve growth upstream while being too dependent on downstream refining,” says analyst Gordon Kwan of Mirae Asset Securities. “Among the three national oil companies, Sinopec’s balance sheet is the weakest,” he adds.

Net result: +15% in 20 days.