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Harold Hamm fires back at short-seller Jim Chanos: 'Who is this guy?'

  • Harold Hamm on Thursday responded to renowned short-seller Jim Chanos' revelation that he is betting against Hamm's Continental Resources.
  • Chanos says that Wall Street is looking at the shale oil industry through rose-colored glasses.
  • Hamm said it's "totally ridiculous" to question the technological advances U.S. shale drillers have achieved.

Continental Resources Chairman and CEO Harold Hamm on Thursday fired back at renowned short-seller Jim Chanos after he revealed he is betting that shares of Hamm's Oklahoma-based drilling company will fall.

"Well, first of all, I can say almost, who is this guy?" Hamm told CNBC's "Squawk on the Street."

Hamm speculated that Chanos — who is known for shorting stocks, or betting that their price will decline — got caught on the wrong side of the trade and is trying to mitigate the damage by talking down shale oil drillers.

Company executives are held to a higher standard of honesty by the Securities and Exchange Commission than short-sellers like Chanos, Hamm claimed.

"For anyone to even put forth the suggestion that we haven't had great expansion and wealth creation in this industry with horizontal drilling and all the technology that's come about the last 10 years, I mean, it's totally ridiculous for anybody to make those types of statements," he said.

Chanos's investment firm, Kynikos Associates, did not return a request for comment.

Chanos, who foresaw the spectacular downfall of disgraced energy titan Enron, is known for scrutinizing accounting methods and spotting trouble on the horizon. He explained why Kynikos is shorting Continental Resources during a broader presentation on the U.S. shale oil and gas industry at CNBC and Institutional Investor's Delivering Alpha Conference on Tuesday.

Shale drillers like Continental Resources use advanced drilling methods to free oil and natural gas from rock formations.

Chanos is betting againsta number of shale drillers, and said he wasn't singling out Continental Resources as "a whole lot worse than some of their other Bakken competitors." Nevertheless, he said Continental is a problematic case due to its growing production of natural gas, which fetches less money than crude oil, and its executive incentive structure, which rewards growth over profits in his view.

Jim Chanos speaking at the 2017 Delivering Alpha conference in New York on Sept. 12, 2017.
David A. Grogan | CNBC
Jim Chanos speaking at the 2017 Delivering Alpha conference in New York on Sept. 12, 2017.

Investors are overvaluing shares of Continental and other shale drillers by focusing too narrowly on certain metrics and taking for granted dubious accounting, Chanos said. He warned that their capital spending would eat up almost all of their earnings leaving them with little cash to service their debt.

"If we don't get a big pickup in [Continental Resources'] fortunes in the back half of the year, which the company is counting on, we're going to see a company struggling to pay its interest yet again," Chanos said.

Shares of Continental Resources are down nearly 29 percent this year. Meanwhile, the iShares U.S. Oil & Gas exchange-traded fund, which tracks independent drillers, has fallen about 15.5 percent in 2017.

Asked why his company is underperforming the pack, Hamm said: "We're like everybody else. We're tied to oil prices."

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