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NEW YORK (AP) — Chesapeake Energy Corp.'s stock fell on Wednesday as an analyst downgraded the country's second-biggest natural gas producer amid declining oil and natural gas prices.
Bernstein Research's Bob Brackett lowered Chesapeake to "Market-Perform" from "Outperform." In a client note, Brackett said that Chesapeake is taking positive steps forward — such as agreeing with activist investor Carl Icahn and shareholder Southeastern Asset Management to replace four of nine board members — but he added that many of its recent actions are already accounted for in the stock price.
Meanwhile oil and natural gas prices continued to slide. Benchmark crude fell 37 cents to $82.95 on Wednesday. And natural gas prices are hovering near a 10-year low of about $2.21 per thousand cubic feet.
Chesapeake's stock is worth almost 40 percent less than it was a year ago. The Oklahoma City-based company needs to sell off billions of dollars in assets to service a huge debt load. Earlier this month its shareholders rebuked the company's board by withholding support for two directors up for re-election. Those directors — V. Burns Hargis and Richard K. Davidson — have resigned.
Media reports have also raised questions about whether CEO Aubrey McClendon's personal business interests are in conflict with those of the company he runs.
Shares of Chesapeake Energy fell 30 cents to $17.17 in afternoon trading. The stock is down 23 percent so far this year.