Pedevco (NYSEAMERICAN:PED) — and PED stock — looked like another casualty of the changing oil and gas landscape. But Pedevco aka Pacific Energy Development, looks to have saved itself… for now. Thanks to a debt restructuring agreement at the end of June, Pedevco has avoided immediate insolvency. As a result, PED stock has gone on a tear, rising as much as 1,000% in recent weeks. So what now? Well, the PED stock forecast is far from sunny.
The past few years has been a terrible time for American oil and gas companies. The plunge in oil prices from ~$100/barrel to as low as $27 in 2016 wiped out many exploration and production companies’ balance sheets. The persistently low price of natural gas hasn’t helped matters. As a result, small oil and gas companies like Pedevco have been going bust at a rapid pace in recent times.
And Pedevco hasn’t escaped that fate. As PED stock owners are likely to discover in coming months, merely avoiding bankruptcy doesn’t mean the common stock is suddenly a bargain. Due to the terms of the debt restructuring, Pedevco is likely to see its stock diluted to a massive degree. This will put inexorable downward pressure on PED stock going forward.
Ped Stock Was in Critical Condition
Prior to the June 26th debt exchange, Pedevco appeared to be heading for insolvency. PED stock was trading around 30 cents. In its most recent quarter, the company reported just $644,000 in revenues. That was insufficient to even cover the company’s overhead, let alone other costs.
Once you added in the company’s interest costs of more than $3 million per quarter, it was clear that a revenue run rate well under $1 million per quarter wasn’t even close to workable for Pedevco’s finances. The company had just $1.3 million in cash and other current assets, as opposed to $77 million in liabilities. In theory, its oil assets were valued at $34 million, but without any cash with which to develop said assets, Pedevco’s situation was dire.
A Debt Swap Gives Pedevco New Life
On June 26th, Pedevco announced that it had managed to restructure its balance sheet. Its creditors, likely seeing that they were never going to get paid given the status quo, agreed to accept far less compensation for their claims against the company.
As a result, Pedevco was able to satisfy its more than $75 million in existing liabilities and replace them with a new $7.7 million loan from SK Energy at an interest rate of 8%. As Pedevco put it in their press release, this debt exchange adds more than $64 million in new shareholder equity to the company’s balance sheet.
Not surprisingly, traders assumed that much of this value would trickle down to the common PED stock. Pedevco was sporting a book value of -$5.66/share heading into this debt swap. Given that the company had 7.2 million shares of stock outstanding, in theory, this debt exchange added almost $9/share of value to Pedevco’s balance sheet. Add that to book value, and perhaps traders thought that Pedevco was worth more than $3/share now. The market valued PED stock at just 30 cents prior to the debt swap. So, it makes sense that the stock has jumped so far since then, right?
PED Stock Faces Massive Dilution
Unfortunately for PED stock owners, it isn’t so simple. In finance, if you own stock in a nearly insolvent company, creditors are rarely going to give you a massive gift. Remember that the debtholders have priority. If they force a company into bankruptcy, they get the underlying assets. It’s worth considering why the creditors here would give up their ~$75 million in claims against the company for pennies. Given that PED stock would be worth essentially zero in a bankruptcy, the debtholders had no reason to make this sort of swap unless it was good for them too.
So, what are the debtholders getting? Answer: a bunch of PED stock. SK Energy, for one, got 600,000 shares of PED stock merely for giving the company the loan. At today’s $2.50 stock price, that’s $1.5 million in value received on a $7.7 million loan simply for closing the transaction, which amounts to a gigantic implied interest rate. Pedevco is also granting warrants for more than 1.4 million shares of PED stock at 33 cents per share to existing debtholders. That will effectively swell Pedevco’s share count again while diluting the stock at a far lower price than today’s $2.50 quote.
As it is, the company’s share count has already almost doubled. As part of the loan agreement, SK Energy bought the company’s outstanding preferred stock for a nominal sum and converted it into 6,662,500 shares of PED stock, giving it nearly half of the company.
There Is A Bull Case For PED Stock
In theory, Pedevco has a fresh opportunity to succeed. Its new controlling shareholder, SK Energy, is solely owned by Dr. Simon Kukes. Kukes is famous for his involvement in several multi-billion dollar oil and gas enterprises. He headed the Russian oil company Yukos, and led another, Tyumen, until he partnered that firm with British Petroleum (NYSE:BP). He also held top management positions at Amoco and Phillips.
Needless to say, Kukes is a top-notch industry player. As he put it, Pedevco just needed a better balance sheet to be able to realize the value from its oil and gas properties. Kukes recently said:
“I am excited to make this investment in PEDEVCO whose assets were only hindered in their development by its strangling debt situation. I believe the Company is now well-positioned to develop its assets, grow production, and seek accretive acquisitions.”
That said, Dr. Kukes and Pedevco will still have a challenging road ahead. Given that the company is only generating ~$3 million/year in revenues, it will need to expand quickly — with limited funds — to be able to service its SK Energy debt.
PED Stock Is Dramatically Overvalued
Dr. Kukes has put himself in a great position. He owns a large portion of PED stock, at a price below today’s quote, from this deal. So if the new and improved Pedevco succeeds, his PED stock should rally. And if it doesn’t, he owns the company’s debt, ensuring that his SK Energy still has the claim on Pedevco’s assets.
For other PED stock owners, the situation is significantly less promising. With the newly enlarged 14.5 million share count, the market is valuing Pedevco at $36 million for a company with about $27 million in book value (its oil assets minus the SK Energy debt). This is likely much too high, given that Pedevco will remain unprofitable unless it dramatically increases its revenues.
Additionally, between the warrants and the option to pay SK Energy’s interest payments in PED stock, expect the share count to keep rising in coming quarters. Given ongoing losses, a small asset base, and ongoing new share creation, the forecast for PED stock is rather cloudy. Once the hype wears off, shares are likely to sink back toward $1.
At the time of this writing, the author owned BP stock.
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