Chesapeake Energy Corp. on Thursday conducted its first quarterly conference call without founder Aubrey McClendon, who has said he will leave the company April 1.
The company expects to name its new CEO before McClendon departs, Jeff Mobley, Chesapeake's senior vice president of investor relations and research, said during the call.
In McClendon's stead, other Chesapeake executives reported stronger-than-expected earnings, fueled by increased oil production.
“Over the past three quarters, Chesapeake has demonstrated that we have the people, properties and processes in place to drive liquids production higher while also containing per unit expenses,” said Steve Dixon, Chesapeake's chief operating officer and executive vice president of operations and geosciences.
The Oklahoma City energy company posted a net fourth-quarter profit of $257 million, or 39 cents a share. The income was down from a profit of $429 million, or 63 centsa share, in the fourth quarter of 2011.
For the full year, Chesapeake recorded a loss of $940 million, or $1.46 a share, down from a profit of $1.57 billion, or $2.32 a share, in the previous year.
Chesapeake's fourth-quarter adjusted earnings reached 26 cents a share, down from 58 cents a share one year ago, but nearly double consensus analyst expectations of 14 cents a share.
Oppenheimer analyst Fadel Gheit called the earnings announcement “very positive.”
“It shows renewed confidence, backed by good operating results,” Gheit said.
Chesapeake said its average daily crude oil and natural gas liquids production improved to 147,500 barrels in the fourth quarter, up 39 percent from the year-ago period.
Oil production jumped 69 percent to 8.9 million barrels in the fourth quarter of 2012, up from nearly 5.3 million barrels in the year-ago period.
Despite the improvements, Chesapeake said it still needs to raise at least $4 billion in 2013 to meet its budgeted expenses.
The company plans to sell $5 billion to $7 billion in assets to cover the shortfall, said Nick Dell'Osso, Chesapeake's chief financial officer and executive vice president.
Mobley began Thursday's conference call with praise for the company's outgoing leader.
“The culture and capabilities of the company Aubrey created and the standards of excellence he championed had been distinctive and inspiring, resulting in a company with extraordinary potential,” Mobley said. “But his legacy will ultimately be the realization of that potential through the success and value that we all helped deliver after his tenure as CEO concludes.
“With those thoughts in mind and in behalf of nearly 12,000 employees at Chesapeake, we want to sincerely thank Aubrey for his visionary leadership and for his 24 years of tireless service to the company, to shareholders, to employees, and to the industry.”
CONTRIBUTING: Business Writer Jay F. Marks