Startup shale oil producer Alta Mesa Resources has filed bankruptcy less than two years after its formation, citing depressed oil prices and liquidity constraints resulting from “aggressive growth.”
Alta Mesa’s share price has declined from a 52-week high of $4.83 per share a year ago to 7.7 cents at Wednesday’s close. The company, which was formed in February 2018, has oil and gas production operations in Oklahoma’s Anadarko Basin and provides midstream services through its Kingfisher Midstream unit.
On Thursday, Alta Mesa announced it had put the production business in Chapter 11 to “provide an opportunity to pursue a value-maximizing sale of all or substantially all of the debtors’ assets while also continuing to pursue a comprehensive restructuring.”
“Despite considerable progress in reducing costs and improving [oil] well results, the companies continue to operate against a historically challenging commodity price environment and a capital market that is highly constrained for energy companies,” it said in a news release.
The Houston Chronicle noted that Alta Mesa had been on the verge of bankruptcy for several months after “significantly overestimating” the potential of its holdings in the Anadarko Basin.
The company in March laid off about a quarter of its employees and wrote down the value of its assets by $3.1 billion due to failures in its financial reporting that have prompted an investigation by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.
Alta Mesa Chairman Jim Hackett, the former Anadarko Petroleum chief, had been serving as interim CEO since the company’s top three executives — including CEO Hal Chapelle and CFO Michael McCabe — resigned in December 2018.
The current CFO, John Regan, said in a bankruptcy court declaration that Alta Mesa’s ability to maintain drilling activities had been hurt by “liquidity constraints brought on by operational challenges associated with aggressive growth in 2018 (when the debtors operated up to nine rigs) and the decline in commodity prices.”
Additionally, “Poorer than expected well performance, together with an inability to sustain adequate drilling levels, has inhibited the debtors’ capacity to generate revenue,” he said.
In trading Thurday, Alta Mesa shares fell 6% to 7.2 cents.