This could be the industry that "reignites" the U.S. economy
Thursday, November 03, 2011
In late 1998, Chesapeake Energy Corp. (CHK), an independent natural-gas producer based in Oklahoma City, exemplified an industry in decline.
The company's stock price had fallen over two years from above $34 a share to 75 cents. Its market value tumbled 93 percent, to $72 million. "They're running up a down escalator," Michael Spohn, an analyst at Petroleum Research Group, said.
When Aubrey K. McClendon, Chesapeake's chief executive officer and co-founder, announced he might sell the company, there was little interest, Bloomberg Businessweek reports in its Nov. 7 edition.
Falling gas prices had reduced the value of Chesapeake's reserves from $2.1 billion to $661 million. "We'd had higher highs than others in the industry; then we had lower lows," McClendon said with characteristic insouciance. "In this business, it's good to have a short memory and thick skin."
Good thing he didn't sell. Thirteen years later, Chesapeake's market value exceeds $18 billion. Its shares sell for about $28, up 8 percent this year. The company's 120-acre neo-Georgian corporate campus bustles with construction crews building new office space. Its workforce has grown 30 percent in a year, to 12,200, and its recruiters have 700 jobs to fill. "The United States," McClendon boasts, "has the capacity to become the Saudi Arabia of natural gas."
A tall man who wears his wavy silver hair long by CEO standards, McClendon, 52, exudes the confidence of someone who's certain he's seen the future. Exploitation of newly accessible supplies of gas embedded in layers of what's known as shale rock, he predicts, will help revive domestic manufacturing and change the terms of debate about global warming. "It's a new industrial renaissance," he said...
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