When SandRidge Energy (NYSE: SD) announced last month that it was raising $1.25 billion in new debt, the move came as a surprise. This is a company whose CEO readily admitted earlier this year that if the current oil price was the new normal that it would, “probably want to remove $1 billion of debt from the balance sheet.” However, instead of focusing on ways to do just that, the company went out and piled on even more debt. It’s a move that certainly begs the question of whether or not SandRidge Energy is building a company that will last.
Piled high and deep
No matter which way we slice it, SandRidge Energy is over its head in debt. After accounting for the recent debt issuance, SandRidge Energy now has roughly $4.6 billion in net debt outstanding. If we add in its equity market value and its preferred equity, the company’s total enterprise value sits at roughly $5.7 billion.
To put that into perspective, SandRidge Energy now has almost as much net debt as EOG Resources (NYSE: EOG), which is a company roughly 10 times its size, since EOG Resources has a $53 billion enterprise value. Another way to look at it, debt as a percentage of SandRidge Energy’s enterprise value is 81% while it’s only 9% of EOG Resources’ enterprise value.
SandRidge added the new debt as a stop gap measure to boost its liquidity and therefore buy it more time to deal with the situation. However, it’s a move that could be its undoing should oil prices stay weak for the next couple of years. That’s because the company needs higher oil prices to push its cash flow higher so that it can support its debt over the long term.
$60 oil is the new $80, but that’s not enough
One of the reasons SandRidge Energy wanted to buy itself some more time is because it’s working feverishly to get its well costs down to $2.4 million per lateral. That cost represents a 20% saving from last year’s well cost and, more important, would enable SandRidge Energy to earn a 50% internal rate of return at a $60 oil price. For perspective, that’s the same return the company had been earning at a $80 oil price when its well costs were over $3 million per lateral. The problem is the fact the company still has a ways to go as its current well costs are $2.7 million.
Furthermore, even if SandRidge can meet its lofty goal of a $2.4 million well cost, the returns it would earn would still be well below what other peers like EOG Resources are already earning. In fact, EOG Resources is actually enjoying better well economics right now than when oil prices were $95 per barrel. As an example, the company’s after tax rate of return is 73% for wells drilled in the western Eagle Ford Shale while the company’s wells in the Delaware Basin Leonard now earn a 71% after tax rate of return, which are above the previous returns of 60% and 36%, respectively.
SandRidge Energy’s mountain of debt alone suggests the company isn’t built to last as it has almost as much debt as EOG Resources, a company nearly 10 times its size. Its problems are further compounded by the fact that the company’s asset base simply can’t produce returns on the same level as EOG Resources. Clearly, the company faces a daunting task as it won’t survive unless the price of oil moves meaningfully higher so that it can better support its mountain of debt.
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