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  • Writer's pictureIshfaaq Peerally

Whiting Petroleum - An Update

Whiting Petroleum has been on my watchlist ever since the company filed for a Chapter 11 Bankruptcy in April. The logic behind this was that the company had a good restructuring plan and at the right price it could be a good investment.

Since then, the stock has been quite volatile, gaining over 300% in 2 days before crashing, then gaining 1000% in the next 2 months before crashing again. In the last 2 days, it jumped by 50%. Is another bull run coming? Am I going to finally invest?

The rationale for investing in Whiting Petroleum is that the company filed for bankruptcy and right now, the stock price is very cheap. Since over the long-term, the stock price is highly correlated with oil prices, we can expect the stock to eventually recover when oil prices rise. But as a value investor, I cannot invest at any price. I need to find the intrinsic value of the company, take a margin of safety, then make an investment if only the stock is cheap enough.

How do we find the intrinsic value of a bankrupt oil company? We will need to find the liquidation price, after the debt restructuring.

The company already negotiated their debt restructuring with their creditors and hopes to come out of bankruptcy in 5 months (that was a statement in April) with 97% of the equity of the company given to the creditors and current shareholders owning only 3% of the company.

- In 2019, the total debt was $2.8 billion

- In March 2020, they took an additional line of credit of $650 million, which means that the total debt was $3.45 billion

- In April 2020, they filed for bankruptcy and restructured the debt converting $2.2 billion into equity. The total debt left would be $1.25 billion.

Right now, there are about 91 million shares outstanding. After the restructuring, they will have a total of 3 059 million shares. The liquidation price will be $0.82/share. In theory, as long as the price is below $0.82, it is cheap but that only makes sense is the company is going to be liquidated. But this is unlikely. We will need to look at a bear, a base and a bull case for the next 5 years.

There are multiple catalysts that can send the price higher, for example, higher oil prices. If oil prices go higher, the assets will increase, and this company will be one of the rare ones with low debts. So, we should expect productions to go well, and stock prices to consequently increase but the company's assets are also depleting at a fast rate.

In the bear case, oil prices remain low, the company's assets are depleted at about 7% a year and the company even increases its debt to end up with a lower book value that it has today. In the base case, oil prices returns to 2019 levels. The company's assets are still depleted at 7% and things return to what it would have been if the pandemic didn't happen. In the bull case, oil prices go beyond $60/barrel, the assets are still being depleted at 7% but since oil prices are higher, the book value of the company will still be increasing and investors would be willing to pay even X3 of book value. Looking at all these possibilities, I have come to the conclusion that at current prices, the expected returns per year over 5 years will be about 8.3%. This is in my opinion, not worth it, considering the risk. But if we apply a margin of safety and the price falls to $0.60, then the expected returns could be about 17% per year. For this reason, I'll keep Whiting Petroleum in my watchlist for the moment and only make an investment at the right price. Check out my Research Partnership for a more detailed analysis and Research on Whiting Petroleum:

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