Chesapeake Energy (NYSE: CHK) is the third-largest independent producer of natural gas in the United States. Although the company is also involved in producing crude oil and drilling activities, Chesapeake remains heavily concentrated in natural gas, which makes up about 92% of the 1.7 billion cubic feet equivalent per day it produces. It also has proven reserves of approximately 9 trillion cubic feet equivalent, with the majority of its reserves within the United States. This helps the company reduce the risk involved with international operations and import duty restrictions. Though the majority of Chesapeake's revenues come from the sale and marketing of oil and natural gas, additional revenue it receives from drilling services and oilfield trucking operations creates a strong hedge against a downturn in its core natural gas business.
In 2006, the price of natural gas averaged around $6.73 per thousand cubic feet, as domestic natural gas consumption declined by 265 billion cubic feet. This was largely due to unusually warm weather during the first two months of the year, which reduced heating demand. The price outlook in 2007 seems appealing for large natural gas players like Chesapeake; gas consumption is expected to rise by about 900 billion cubic feet, resulting from strong demand both from residential heating and increased industrial usage.
Financially, Chesapeake had a strong 2006. Revenues were up by 57%, and net profit more than doubled from previous-year levels, all thanks to higher oil and natural gas prices. In addition, through targeted acquisitions, the company increased its production from drilling and its capacity.
Looking ahead to 2007, the company is likely to continue to rise, with its huge reserves, deep drilling expertise, and the competitive advantage that arises from its primarily domestic operations. The company also has an impeccable record of increasing production for 17 consecutive years and 22 consecutive quarters, thanks largely to acquisitions. Moreover, with the price outlook for natural gas in 2007 looking very positive for the company, the further rise in production will act as major boost for Chesapeake, making it a strong investment.