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"Oil Drillers Are Going To Die" In Q2, Conway Mackenzie Warns "Expect Outright Liquidations"

"The second quarter is going to be devastating for the service companies," warns Conway Mackenzie - the largest U.S. restructuring firm - adding that, despite slashing thousands of jobs, delaying (or scrapping) billions in capex amid the prolonged rout in oil prices, "there are certainly companies that are going to die." As Bloomberg reports, oil drillers will begin collapsing under the weight of lower crude prices during the second quarter and energy explorers who employ them will shortly follow with oilfield-service providers are facing a "double-whammy." As we noted here, there are more than a few candidates for this 'death' list as it appears increasingly clear that what was considered an "unambiguously good" narrative for the nation is anything but...

 

As Bloomberg reports,

Companies that drill wells and manage fields on behalf of oil producers will be the first to fall after the benchmark American crude, West Texas Intermediate, lost 57 percent of its value in seven months, said John T. Young, whose firm led the city of Detroit through its 2013 bankruptcy.

 

Oil companies have slashed thousands of jobs, delayed billions of dollars in projects and dropped or scaled back expansion plans in response to the prolonged rout in crude prices. For oilfield service providers that test wells and line the holes with steel and cement, the impact of price reductions forced upon them by explorers will start to pinch hard during the second quarter, Young said Thursday.

 

“The second quarter is going to be devastating for the service companies,” Young said in a telephone interview from Houston. “There are certainly companies that are going to die.”

 

Oilfield-service providers are facing a “double-whammy,” he said. Even as oil companies are demanding 20 percent to 30 percent price reductions, they’re also extending wait times before paying their bills, enlarging cash-flow gaps for the drilling and equipment firms, he said.

 

...

 

The amount of projected 2015 oil and natural gas output a company has hedged is a strong indicator of whether they’ll be able to pay their bills, he said. Another important metric is how much is drawn on revolver loans, Young said.

 

“I’m telling them they really have to keep an eye on this stuff and you’ve got to be the squeaky wheel,” he said. “You’ve got to start filing liens if you see a company starting to go down.”

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Wondering who is top of the list? As we detailed previously, there are plenty...

Readers will be most interested in the "restructuring/bankruptcy" option, most applicable for Group 4, because these are the names which,  all else equal, will file for bankruptcy first.

This is what Goldman's Jason Gilbert has to say:

We believe oil market weakness presents H&Y E&P management teams with difficult decisions. For certain stronger companies, the challenge may be one of deciding if and when to high grade the portfolio through M&A. For some weaker companies, the decisions may be more stressful, with many lower-quality names being forced to consider (1) selling themselves, (2) restructuring/filing for bankruptcy protection, and/or (3) bolstering liquidity through asset sales and/or second lien debt issuance.

 

We have created a 2x2 matrix, shown in Exhibit 1, where we classify E&Ps according to both asset quality and balance sheet strength. In Exhibit 2, we provide the backup data on each company that justifies its classification in the chart below.

The matrix in question:

 

Group 4: Weak balance sheet/weak assets

This group includes companies with leverage above 2.5x and assets we rate “B-“ or lower. Names we highlight are Approach Resources (NC), Exco Resources (NC), Goodrich Petroleum (NC), Halcon Resources (IL), Magnum Hunter (NC), Midstates Petroleum (NC), Rex Energy (NC), Sabine Oil & Gas (U), Samson Investment (NC), Sandridge Energy (IL), and Swift Energy (U).

 

We view management teams in this group as facing the most difficult decisions. Given the general lack of “core” assets, we believe strategic interest from a larger acquirer is less likely than for Group 3. Furthermore, with the bonds in this group generally trading below $80, we believe 101% change of control provisions act as de facto “poison pills” for acquirers. 

 

Given high leverage and the lack of strategic interest, we believe many companies will need to seek alternative sources of capital. While the options here will vary case by case, we note that most of these names have secured debt baskets that can be used to bolster liquidity. Based on the phone calls we receive, investor interest in this type of security remains high, which suggests to us we will see robust second-lien issuance as soon as the conclusion of 1Q earnings. The bottom line is that, for now, we think investors should tread lightly in this group, despite the average bond yield of 19% (excluding obviously distressed names Swift Energy, Samson Investment, and Sabine Oil & Gas).

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As Conway McKenzie's John Young concludes:

"When I saw WTI hit $65, I thought we’re going to be really busy with restructurings,” Young said. “When it hit the $40s, I knew we were looking at outright liquidations."