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Shares of Chesapeake Energy surge more than 20% after shale gas pioneer beats earnings expectations

  • Higher oil and gas production, better commodity prices and continued progress cutting costs and debt contributed to Chesapeake Energy's beat.
  • Shares of Chesapeake had fallen nearly 57 percent over the last year as the company reckoned with low natural gas and oil prices after years of borrowing heavily to expand operations.
  • "The severity of the sell-off in CHK shares has caught us by surprise," one analyst says.
Workers steady a section of drill pipe during drilling operations for Chesapeake Energy.
Daniel Acker | Bloomberg | Getty Images
Workers steady a section of drill pipe during drilling operations for Chesapeake Energy.

Shares of Chesapeake Energy popped Thursday after the shale gas pioneer reported quarterly profits and revenues that topped Wall Street's expectations.

The earnings beat was underscored by higher oil and gas production, better commodity prices and continued progress in cutting costs and chipping away at the driller's debt load.

The company's stock was up 22 percent to just $3.22 a share Thursday morning.

Shares of Chesapeake had fallen nearly 57 percent over the last year as the company reckoned with low natural gas and oil prices after years of borrowing heavily to expand operations.

Mizuho analyst Timothy Rezvan suggested the recent stock price slide may have been overdone.

"Sentiment on natural gas and, by extension, Chesapeake's balance sheet challenges, has deteriorated significantly in '18," Rezvan said in a research note Thursday. "While we did downgrade to Underperform in early January, the severity of the sell-off in CHK shares has caught us by surprise."

The company earned an adjusted $314 million, or 30 cents per share in profits. Analysts had expected earnings per share of 24 cents.

Chesapeake also surpassed expectations on the top line, drumming up about $2.5 billion in revenues, compared with the Street's forecast for nearly $2.3 billion.

The revenues were boosted by higher commodity prices, as U.S. crude prices rallied 17 percent in the fourth quarter. Chesapeake also increased its oil, natural gas and liquids output by 3 percent over the three months.

The average selling price for the three categories of hydrocarbons was up about 20 percent at $24.41 per oil equivalent barrel.

Chesapeake expects its total output to rise by 3 percent in 2018, with oil production growing at 5 percent for the year. The company says it can pump more while spending about 12 percent less on capital expenditures.

The driller also continued to cut expenses in the fourth quarter, with cost dropping 18 percent last year.

Chesapeake also reduced its debt by 32 percent, or $1.3 billion, in 2017, bringing its long-term load to $9.9 billion. The company completed $1.3 billion in asset sales for the year and announced $575 million more in divestitures.