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Bankruptcy Fears Turn Into Merger Mania In U.S. Oil Patch

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Last year, bankruptcies in the U.S. shale patch hit record levels. Now, dozens of companies have been successfully emerging from Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, with M&A their preferred modus operandi. Triple-digit oil prices have helped many companies return leaner and more profitable than ever, and shareholders are loving it. 

How quickly fortunes can change in the oil and gas business. Last year, U.S. oil and gas companies were still filing for bankruptcy at record level right in the midst of an oil price recovery. Smaller producers were the main victims; eight North American oil and gas producers with an aggregate debt of $1.8B filed for bankruptcy protection in Q1 2021. But it’s now official: the tidal wave triggered by the price correction that began in late 2014 is finally over.

According to the final report by energy and restructuring law firm Haynes and Boone, since the beginning of 2015, a total of 274 oil and gas producers as well as 330 oilfield services and midstream companies have filed for bankruptcy involving over $321 billion in secured and unsecured debt. 


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