Chesapeake fourth-quarter profit tops Street, shares rise

Chesapeake Energy Corp reported a quarterly profit that topped Wall Street views on Thursday, helped in part by lower-than-expected expenses.

Shares of Chesapeake rose 2.5 percent before the start of regular trading.

The earnings report came a day after Chesapeake said an internal investigation of the financial dealings of its outgoing chief executive, Aubrey McClendon, found no "intentional" wrongdoing.

The Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, company posted a profit of $257 million, or 39 cents per share, in the fourth quarter, compared with $429 million, or 63 cents per share, in the same period a year earlier.

Excluding items, Chesapeake had a profit of 26 cents per share. Analysts, on average, had expected 14 cents, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

Phil Weiss, an analyst with Argus Research, said the company's expenses in a number of areas came in below his projections while cash flow was higher than he anticipated.

A series of Reuters investigations last year triggered civil and criminal probes into the second-largest U.S. producer of natural gas. Big shareholders Carl Icahn and Southeastern Asset Management took control of the board in June after McClendon was stripped of the chairman job.

The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission is examining McClendon's financial transactions, while the Department of Justice and the attorney general in Michigan are investigating whether Chesapeake violated antitrust laws.

(Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe)