Chesapeake Energy Launches $1 Billion Stock Buyback

(Reuters) — Chesapeake Energy Corp said on Thursday it would buy back up to $1 billion of stocks, becoming the latest shale producer to focus on shareholder returns, as energy prices recover from pandemic lows.

The company's shares rose 3.5% to $59 in premarket trading.

Profit and cash-flow of shale oil and gas producers have got a boost from a run-up in crude prices this year, as the market rebounds from blistering losses during the pandemic.

Wary of another downturn and fighting to attract investors back to the sector, most public energy companies have so far vowed to focus on shareholder returns over increasing production.

Oil majors Chevron Corp and Exxon Mobil Corp are among the other companies that have resumed share repurchases after halting them last year.

"We estimate that total cash dividends to be paid to shareholders in 2022 will range from $800 million to $1 billion, based on our recent outlook and the current commodity price environment," Chesapeake's Chief Executive Officer Nick Dell'Osso said.

Chesapeake management continues to double down on its return of capital commitment, which the brokerage thinks shareholders will continue to reward, analysts at Tudor, Pickering, Holt & Co said.

Dell'Osso, who took over as Chesapeake's CEO in October, is faced with the task of taking the company back to its position as a top U.S. gas producer after years of ballooning debt forced it into one of last year's most high-profile and contentious bankruptcies.

Once the second-largest U.S. natural gas producer, Chesapeake has suffered an exodus of executives since it emerged from bankruptcy in February. Doug Lawler stepped down as the company's CEO in April and three other top executives departed a few months later.

Chesapeake earlier this week named Mohit Singh, the former head of mergers at BP's U.S. shale unit, as its new finance chief.

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