Small U.S. oil and gas companies get cold shoulder from large banks

NEW YORK (Reuters) – The largest banking lenders to the U.S. oil and gas sector have gotten extra cautious, marking down their expectations for oil and gas costs that underpin loans in a transfer anticipated to place additional monetary stress on struggling producers, trade and banking sources stated.

FILE PHOTO: A pump jack operates at a properly web site leased by Devon Energy Production Company close to Guthrie, Oklahoma September 15, 2015. REUTERS/Nick Oxford

Major banks together with JPMorgan Chase (JPM.N), Wells Fargo (WFC.N), and Royal Bank of Canada (RY.TO) have, as a part of common biannual evaluations, minimize their estimated values for oil-and-gas companies’ reserves, which function the premise for these companies to obtain reserve-based loans (RBLs), in response to greater than a dozen sources accustomed to the exercise.

While the scale of the RBL market is unclear, it’s estimated that a number of hundred companies take such loans, with the cumulative measurement within the billions of .

Those lenders have marked down the perceived worth for each oil and pure gas for the approaching 5 years, with the modifications kicking in as early as this month.

Expected pure gas costs have been minimize by round $zero.50 per million British thermal items, about 20% under ranges set within the spring. Industry sources are forecasting some corporations face a 15% to 30% discount in mortgage measurement because of this. Oil costs are anticipated to be about $1 to $2 decrease than spring estimates.

“Some banks believe they have too much energy exposure and want to reduce some of this risk,” stated Ian Rainbolt, vice chairman of finance at Warwick Energy, a personal fairness agency with upstream investments in Oklahoma and Texas.

That is a risk to smaller companies, that are already struggling to seek out different strategies of financing – corresponding to issuing inventory or bonds – as buyers develop stressed with years of poor returns within the shale sector even because the United States has risen to turn into the world’s largest oil and gas producer. Investors are bracing for weak returns for the third quarter from shale producers on account of decrease oil and gas costs.

Reduced funding might sluggish development in U.S. oil and gas manufacturing, and additionally threaten extra bankruptcies within the sector. Bankruptcy filings amongst U.S. oil and gas producers are at ranges not seen since 2016, when U.S. crude slumped to $26 per barrel, in response to regulation agency Haynes and Boone.

Companies closely centered on pure gas drilling stands out as the most threatened. Banks are forecasting pure gas costs between $2 and $2.35 per million British thermal items for the subsequent 12 months, and as much as $2.50 on the finish of the five-year time period, all decrease than within the spring.

“I expect the biggest issues to be with over-leveraged natural gas producers, especially those without firm transportation in geographically-disadvantaged areas,” stated Brock Hudson, managing director at funding financial institution Carl Marks Advisors, who referenced companies in Appalachia, the Rockies and elements of Oklahoma.

Smaller RBLs can have enormous penalties: Alta Mesa Resources, an Oklahoma-focused producer headed by former Anadarko Petroleum chairman Jim Hackett, filed for chapter a month after its borrowing base was slashed by virtually half in mid-August.

Plenty of banks, together with JP Morgan, Wells Fargo, and Comerica Inc (CMA.N), declined to remark or didn’t reply to requests for remark.


Eight sources indicated bigger banks have set their worth decks, the trade time period for the worth they may ascribe to hydrocarbons behind the RBLs, with oil between $46 and $51 per barrel for the subsequent 5 years.

There are fewer financing choices accessible to assist bridge the hole from decrease RBLs. Just one U.S. producer, Contango Oil & Gas (MCF.A), has issued any new fairness in 2019, whereas there has solely been one high-yield bond providing by a shale producer since March, in response to Refinitiv knowledge.

Since 2018, the S&P 500 Energy Sector .SPNY is the worst performing sector within the Standard & Poor’s 500, falling 18% towards a 12.eight% enhance for the broader index, and many publicly-traded shale companies have achieved even worse.

Those dealing with decrease mortgage ensures additionally can’t depend on promoting undesirable property to boost money as mergers and acquisitions exercise is at its lowest stage in a decade. Profiting from additional manufacturing can be tough, because the variety of lively oil and gas rigs is at its lowest stage since April 2017, in response to Baker Hughes.

Scott Richardson, head of U.S. power funding banking at RBC Capital Markets, stated any uptick in bankruptcies would seemingly come from the SCOOP/STACK space of Oklahoma and the gas-heavy southern portion of Texas’ Midland Basin.

Loan covenants are additionally being tightened, in response to a Dallas Federal Reserve Bank power survey revealed Sept. 25. The survey stated some members famous banks had lowered the utmost debt stage permissible to 2.5 to three instances earnings earlier than curiosity, taxes, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA), from three.5 to instances.

Some regional lenders have saved costs for oil and gas in fall’s redetermination increased than the bigger establishments, in response to three of the sources.

Warwick’s Rainbolt, who has oversight over 4 RBLs, stated it was switching to regional banks, which provided higher worth decks. One financial institution priced gas beginning at $2.37, rising to above $three within the remaining yr, with crude at $52 rising to near-$60 a barrel.

Reporting by David French and Jessica Resnick-Ault in New York; Editing by David Gaffen and Daniel Wallis

Our Standards:The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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