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U.S. Oil Company Sets New Record: Headed For Second Bankruptcy in One Year

Oil Rig Workers

For the second time in less than a year, oil services provider Hercules Offshore is heading for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection by entering a restructuring support agreement (RSA). The Wall Street Journal writes that ''In a prepackaged bankruptcy, companies line up creditor support for their debt-payment plans before seeking chapter 11 protection, allowing them a speedier—and cheaper—trip through bankruptcy.

Last August, Hercules filed for Chapter 11 protection—the first time. At the time, the company showed US$13 billion in debt and just over US$546 million in assets, trying to restructure with a new US$450-million credit line. Related: Clinton Chasing Votes With Fracking U-Turn

It resurfaced from this bankruptcy only in November, but the perpetual low oil price environment led to a slump in exploration investment and project cancellations.

Under the new Chapter 11 filing, Hercules is selling assets to pay off investors. The company has reportedly agreed to transfer the right to buy the Hercules Highlander jack-up rig to a subsidiary of Maersk Drilling for US$196 million.

The company said that its international units will not be included in the Chapter 11 filing, but will be part of the sale process.

In just the first four months of 2016 there were double the the number of energy company bankruptcies than in all of 2015. The total secured and unsecured defaults rose to $34 billion, double the $17 billion total for all of 2015. In 2015, 42 oil companies filed for bankruptcy.

In April this year, 27 North American oil and gas companies filed for bankruptcy—11 of them filing under Chapter 11, according to a Haynes and Boone report. Some 69 North American oil and gas producers have filed for various forces of bankruptcy.

More than one-third of public oil companies globally face bankruptcy, according to a new Deloitte report that paints a fairly gloomy picture of the U.S. shale patch as it struggles to survive under mountains of debt. Related: How Fast Can Solar And Wind Grow

The Deloitte report—the first high-profile report on the current financial situation of global oil and gas companies—surveyed 500 companies and found that 175 are facing “a combination of high leverage and low debt service coverage ratios”.

Shale producers amassed huge debts that they are now struggling to service in the oil price downturn. These debts totaled $353 billion for U.S. and Canadian energy companies at end-2015. To compare, Deloitte puts the combined debt of those 175 bankruptcy-threatened companies at more than $150 billion, nearly half of the total for U..S and Canada.

By Charles Kennedy of Oilprice.com

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