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Chesapeake Energy Corporation (CHK - Analyst Report) has struck a deal with a Fort Worth-based oil and gas producer Energy & Exploration Partners Inc. to sell off its acreage in the Eaglebine oil and gas formation, Texas. The total consideration of the transaction is $125 million.

The agreement covers 57,275 net acres in the Eaglebine formation in Texas comprising both Eagle Ford Shale and Woodbine Sandstone. Although Chesapeake declined to comment on the latest transaction, Energy & Exploration Partners expects it to close in the fourth quarter of this year, according to its filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Of late, Chesapeake has been in the news as it is under pressure to fund its capital budget amid diminishing cash flows given the falling natural gas prices. This Oklahoma City-based company is trying hard to minimize capital expenditure through its divestiture program and intends to reduce its capital spending commitments. It intends to devolve as much as $11.5 billion to $14.0 billion worth of assets this year and an additional $4 billion to $5 billion in 2013.

Though Chesapeake’s ongoing asset monetization initiatives are working well, its balance sheet is still more leveraged than its peers. The company also exhibits a weak financial profile with a huge debt balance. At the end of the second quarter, the debt balance stood at $14,329 million, representing a debt-to-capitalization ratio of 42.0% (versus 44.2% in the preceding quarter). Operating cash flow decreased 25.8% year over year to $895 million.

Now, given the gas price scenario, Chesapeake intends to deploy more funds toward liquids. In particular, the company plans to invest heavily in the development of its holdings in the Eagle Ford Shale, Granite Wash and Mississippi Lime. We appreciate its initiative of deploying more funds toward liquids, a trend common even among its peers, Range Resources Corporation (RRC - Analyst Report) and ConocoPhillips (COP - Analyst Report).

However, we prefer to remain on the sidelines and see the stock performing in line with the broader market. Chesapeake holds a Zacks #3 Rank, which is equivalent to a Hold rating for a period of one to three months. We maintain our long-term Neutral recommendation for the company.
 

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