The market gods continue to be cruel to former energy stock stalwart Chesapeake Energy Corporation (NYSE:CHK). After flirting with bankruptcy and subsequently rising, CHK was hit hard again this year. A variety of factors have continued to push down shares. Year to date, CHK stock investors are looking at a 47% loss.
And yet, despite that loss, Chesapeake could still be a big value for those willing to bottom feed. CHK isn’t a slam dunk, but with bankruptcy off the table for now, there are several catalysts that could help push shares of the energy stock higher. And for those investors willing to put up a little risk capital, Chesapeake could be one great gamble.
CHK Stock Gets a Helping Hand
It’s no secret that CHK can’t get a break. The saga of its debt load enacted during the fracking boom is well publicized at this point. And those debts continue to haunt the firm to this day. The problem and reason for Chesapeake’s continued roller coaster ride has been the firm’s cash flows.
The reason for original bankruptcy scare was that oil prices fell so low that investors and CHK’s bondholders worried if the firm would be able to continue making payments on its IOUs. Paying the coupon is really all that mattered. After hitting penny stock status, a miracle happened for Chesapeake Energy; prices began to rise.
That allowed the firm to start paying down its debts as opposed to just kicking the can on them. Adding in CAPEX reductions, asset sales and other positives and CHK stock managed to have one heck of a year in 2016. Then the bottom dropped out again.
Prices for crude oil and natural gas fell. With that, Chesapeake’s plan of using its extra cash flows to cover CAPEX spending and reduce its overall debts floundered. So naturally, CHK stock once again resumed its downward spiral. However, this time, the market isn’t bracing bankruptcy.
As we said before, bankruptcy is off the table for Chesapeake. But we do have is a lifeless energy stock, just floating through space waiting on a catalyst to push it higher. And we may just have one. In fact, we may just have two.
A Catalyst for CHK Stock
For starters, energy prices have finally started to rise. Supplies have remained tight as OPEC has once again voted to keep production at a minimum. This, will relatively bullish demand as the world’s economy has started to expand, has driven oil prices up once again.
That’s put the price of West Texas Intermediate-benchmarked crude oil at near $55 per barrel. That’s about the amount CHK needs to be 100% cash flow natural, or that cash coming in equals cash coming out.
It’s not ideal, but it does allow Chesapeake to kick the can further down the road. And any price above that, even about $60, would mean that firm would start seeing some real profits from its production. And this is before continued CAPEX spending cuts and moves into lower cost shale formations.
Secondly, CHK’s big production commodity (namely, natural gas) is getting a break in terms of demand. That’s because both Royal Dutch Shell pls (ADR) (NYSE:RDS.A) and Cheniere Energy, Inc. (NYSE:LNG) have massive export projects are finally hitting the tipping point.
Cheniere’s Sabine Pass has currently four “trains” operating and a fifth train is under construction. The facility is the only operating LNG liquefaction/export terminal in the lower 48 states. Shell is currently buying about 50% of the Sabine Pass’s production and is scheduled to boost that commitment further.
At the same time, Dominion Energy Inc (NYSE:D) is finally ready to start exporting from its Cove Point LNG terminal in Maryland. Shell is once again buying the first Cove Point exports.
The point is, we finally are seeing the first real fruits of the LNG thesis. Demand and the ability to meet that outside demand is now a reality for natural gas firms like Chesapeake. That should finally help push up low natural gas prices and help get it being cash flow neutral/positive sooner.
Buying CHK Stock
For CHK, cash flow neutrality is on the horizon. All it needs to do is stay alive, which it can, long enough to have higher oil prices and the LNG demand take hold. With its access to plenty of capital/credit and cash flows moving in the right direction, Chesapeake should be able to do just that.
And that makes shares still a big value under $5.
Again, there is some risk here. But the positives continue to weigh in CHK stocks benefit. For investors looking for a deep value play that could have the potential to double as prices/demand rise, Chesapeake makes an interesting choice.
Disclosure: Author is Long CHK