Chesapeake Puts Shale Field Up for Sale for $5B

Chesapeake Energy Corp (NYSE:CHK) wants to sell holdings in Louisiana's Fayetteville shale natural gas field and stakes in two companies to raise $5 billion and trim its heavy debt load.

Chesapeake has been one of the most aggressive U.S. energy companies in snapping up properties in shale gas fields across the United States, but that buying spree has left it awash in debt and short of cash to drill new wells.

Weak natural gas prices have also hurt Chesapeake, which reported nearly $15 billion in long-term debt as of September 30, 2010 and has promised shareholders it would shift its exploration focus to oil and other liquids.

Chesapeake, one of the largest natural gas producers in the United States, said that sales of its Fayetteville shale acreage and equity investments in Frac Tech Holdings LLC and Chaparral Energy are expected to be completed in the first half of the year.

Proceeds from the sale, as well as a recently announced partnership in the Niobrara fields, would be used to pay down about $2.0 billion to $3.0 billion in shorter-dated senior notes and reduce borrowing under its revolving bank credit facility, the company said.

Shares in Chesapeake rose more than 4% in premarket trading to $31.30 per share.