The largest detractor in the quarter was Chesapeake Energy (CHK
), one of the largest producers of natural gas, natural gas liquids, and oil in the U.S., which declined 27%. The company reported lower-than- expected price realizations and production in the fourth quarter. While the company cut 2015 budgeted capital expenditures (capex) over 40% versus 2014, the market was hoping for Chesapeake to balance lower cash flow with capex. The company maintains a flexible balance sheet, with $4 billion in cash and an additional $4 billion in an undrawn credit facility, which will allow CEO Doug Lawler to focus on driving the greatest value for shareholders for the long-term, either through the authorized $1 billion repurchase program, strategic acquisitions, or a combination of both. While our appraisal of the company has come down in the short-term with the collapse of oil and gas prices, the long-term thesis remains intact. Chesapeake’s second largest shareholder, Carl Icahn
), recently increased his stake in Chesapeake by 10%, and Chairman Archie Dunham bought an additional $14 million at quarter-end. During the quarter we maintained our overall exposure to Chesapeake but switched half our position into options due to favorable pricing created by the panic and resulting volatility in energy markets. We also employed this approach to increase our exposure to Murphy. We viewed this as a rare opportunity to gain more downside protection while maintaining the upside benefit of higher stock prices. The Chesapeake options accounted for more than half of that position’s decline in the quarter.
From Mason Hawkins
)’ Longleaf Partners Fund Q1 2015 Management Discussion
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