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U.S. oil industry bankruptcy wave nears size of telecom bust

Dead sunflowers stand in a field near dormant oil drilling rigs which have been stacked in Dickinson, North Dakota January 21, 2016.

The rout in crude prices is snowballing into one of the biggest avalanches in the history of corporate America, with 59 oil and gas companies now bankrupt after this week's filings for creditor protection by Midstates Petroleum and Ultra Petroleum.

The number of U.S. energy bankruptcies is closing in on the staggering 68 filings seen during the depths of the telecom bust of 2002 and 2003, according to Reuters data, the law firm Haynes & Boone and bankruptcydata.com.

Charles Gibbs, a restructuring partner at Akin Gump in Texas, said the U.S. oil industry is not even halfway through its wave of bankruptcies.

"I think we'll see more filings in the second quarter than in the first quarter," he said. Fifteen oil and gas companies filed for bankruptcy in the first quarter.

Some oil producers appear to be holding on, hoping the price of crude stabilizes at a higher...


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