Sam Zell, the real estate mogul, has acquired oil assets across the United States at ‘fire-sale’ prices, as U.S. drillers sell assets to raise cash which is scarce in the oil patch these days, the billionaire told Bloomberg TV in an interview on Thursday.
Zell, founder and chairman of Equity Group Investments, has bought assets of oil companies in Texas, Colorado, and California at advantageous prices because firms are increasingly looking to have cash buffers, anticipating potential further slowdown in drilling and cash available to the oil sector.
“The amount of capital available in the oil patch is disappearing,” Zell told Bloomberg, comparing the U.S. oil industry now with the early-1990s real estate sector when no one had cash and there were empty real estates everywhere.
After years of frustration with the lack of meaningful returns from shale firms and amid persistently low oil and gas prices, investors have turned their backs on energy stocks. Banks have too, restricting lending to shale firms who have grown production so far mostly by taking on more debt.
U.S. shale drillers are not optimistic about the near future, either, admitting that Wall Street has turned off the tap on funding and that low oil and gas prices will continue to depress margins and earnings.
In one of the latest signs of distress in the U.S. shale patch, Chesapeake Energy warned last week that its ability to comply with the covenants under its revolving credit facilities and other indebtedness could impact its ability to continue as a going concern.
The company, which helped propel the shale gas revolution in the late 2000s, said it has released its operated rigs and completion crews in the Haynesville Shale for the rest of the year. Chesapeake is also slashing its 2020 capital expenditure forecast by around 30 percent, and expects to reduce 2020 production and general and administrative expenses by some 10 percent.
Reports emerged yesterday that leading Haynesville basin producer Comstock Resources is in discussions to buy the Haynesville assets of Chesapeake in Louisiana.