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Feb 22 (Reuters) - Chesapeake Energy Corp said it expects production growth this year to match last year's, despite plans to lower capital investments by 12 percent, showing its cost-cutting efforts were paying off and sending shares up about 10 percent on Thursday.
Like its peers in the energy industry, Chesapeake is also under pressure from antsy investors to increase production on minimal spending, and has cut costs and jobs to manage a balance sheet saddled with $9.90 billion in debt.
Chesapeake is also selling assets worth $2 billion to $3 billion and has invested in technology to improve production from its existing holdings, including in the Eagle Ford Shale in Texas, Utica Shale in Ohio and Anadarko Basin in Oklahoma.
The Oklahoma-based company said, adjusting for asset sales, it expects production to rise by about 3 percent in 2018, mirroring growth in 2017. It set a 2018 capital budget of $1.96 billion to $2.38 billion, a 12 percent decrease from last year.
The "Street should perceive this as a positive given 2018 spending is decreasing, while production still increasing," said Neal Dingmann, analyst at SunTrust Robinson.
Lower costs as well as higher production and averaged realized prices, helped Chesapeake's fourth-quarter profit top analysts' expectations.
Net income available to Chesapeake shareholders was $309 million, or 33 cents per share, in the quarter ended Dec. 31, compared with a loss of $740 million, or 83 cents per share, a year earlier.
Total operating expenses fell 8.7 percent.
Excluding items, the company earned 30 cents per share, beating analysts average estimate of 24 cents per share, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.
Chesapeake's production averaged 593,200 barrels of oil equivalent per day (boepd), marginally higher than its estimate earlier this month and up 3.3 percent from a year ago.
The company said average sales price rose 20.2 percent to $24.41 per barrel of oil equivalent (boe).
Chesapeake shares were up 9.8 percent at $2.90 in morning trading, cutting their loss so far this year to roughly 27 percent. (Reporting by Anirban Paul in Bengaluru; Editing by Savio D'Souza)