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Chesapeake Energy accelerates strategic plan with acquisition of WildHorse Resource Development

Chesapeake Energy has entered into a definitive agreement to acquire WildHorse Resource Development, an oil and gas company with operations in the Eagle Ford Shale and Austin Chalk formation in Southeast Texas. The transaction is valued at approximately $3.977 billion, based on yesterday’s closing price, including the value of WildHorse’s net debt of $930 million as of 30 June 2018. At the election of each WildHorse common shareholder, the consideration will consist of either 5.989 shares of Chesapeake common stock or a combination of 5.336 shares of Chesapeake common stock and $3 in cash, in exchange for each share of WildHorse common stock. The transaction was unanimously approved by the board of directors of each company.

The acquisition of WildHorse expands Chesapeake’s oil-growth platform and accelerates progress toward its strategic and financial goals of enhancing margins, achieving sustainable free cash flow generation, and reducing net debt to EBITDA ratio. 

Transaction highlights and pro forma performance projections include:

  • Materially increases oil production/enhances oil mix: Projected to double adjusted oil production by 2020 from stand-alone adjusted 2018 estimates, increasing to a projected range of 125,000 to 130,000 bbl/day in 2019, and 160,000 to 170,000 bbl/day in 2020; Chesapeake’s 2020 projected adjusted oil production mix is expected to increase to approximately 30% of total production, compared to approximately 19%;
  • Significant EBITDA margin accretion: Increases projected EBITDA per BOE margin by approximately 35% in 2019 and by approximately 50% in 2020, based on current strip prices;
  • Transforms portfolio with expanded oil growth platform: Adds approximately 420,000 high margin net acres, approximately 80 to 85% of which is undeveloped, in the Eagle Ford Shale and Austin Chalk formations with strategic access to premium Gulf Coast markets; addition of the WildHorse asset creates an expansive oil-growth platform which complements Chesapeake’s existing high-margin Eagle Ford and Powder River Basin positions; moving forward, Chesapeake expects over 80% of future drilling and completion activity will be directed toward high-margin oil opportunities.
  • Substantial cost savings: $200 million to $280 million in projected average annual savings, totaling $1 billion to $1.5 billion by 2023, due to operational and capital efficiencies as a result of Chesapeake’s significant expertise with unconventional assets and technical and operational excellence; incremental savings through elimination of redundant corporate overhead, gathering, processing and transmission synergies and improved capital markets execution due to improved credit metrics;
  • Accelerates deleveraging: Transaction will accelerate progress toward goal of 2.0x net debt to EBITDA ratio; improves projected 2019 net debt to EBITDA ratio to approximately 3.6x and projected 2020 net debt to EBITDA ratio to approximately 2.8x, based on current strip prices.

“This transaction accelerates Chesapeake’s strategic plan and expands the value-creation opportunities for our shareholders by adding a premier asset at an attractive valuation, significantly boosting oil production, EBITDA margins and cash flow growth, while improving our leverage metrics,” Doug Lawler, Chesapeake’s President and Chief Executive Officer, said. “The addition of WildHorse, together with our substantial growth profile in the Powder River Basin, advances our transformation into a highly competitive company with a diverse portfolio of high-quality assets, a stronger balance sheet and meaningful oil-growth potential.”

“We are extremely proud of the company we built and brought public less than two years ago,” Jay Graham, Chief Executive Officer and Chairman of the Board of Directors of WildHorse Resource Development, said. “This combination creates an impressive oil-growth platform which provides both immediate value and potential for significant long-term upside to our shareholders. As a highly regarded operator, Chesapeake brings the technical expertise and operational efficiencies needed to maximize the value of this premier asset.”

Upon closing, Chesapeake shareholders will own approximately 55% of the combined company, and WildHorse shareholders will own approximately 45%, depending on the consideration elected. Prior to closing, WildHorse will designate two individuals, presently expected to be Mr Graham and current WildHorse Director David Hayes to be added to Chesapeake’s Board of Directors. R. Brad Martin and Mr Lawler will continue to serve as Chesapeake’s Chairman of the Board of Directors and President, Chief Executive Officer and Director, respectively.  

Investment funds managed by NGP Energy Capital Management, collectively WildHorse’s largest shareholder, have entered into a voting and support agreement in support of the transaction.

“NGP has observed Chesapeake’s significant transformation over the last several years and believes it is a compelling investment,” Tony Weber, NGP’s Managing Partner, said. “We have the utmost confidence in the leadership team’s strategy and ability to deliver incremental, meaningful value creation.”

Chesapeake expects to finance the cash portion of the WildHorse acquisition, which is expected to be between $275 million and approximately $400 million, through its revolving credit facility. The transaction, which is subject to shareholder approvals from both companies and customary closing conditions and regulatory approvals, is expected to close in the first half of 2019.

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