May 26, 2016 / 9:57 PM / a year ago

Fights over value dog U.S. energy producers' bankruptcy plans

WILMINGTON, Del., May 26 (Reuters) - Sabine Oil & Gas Corp and Samson Resources Corp, energy producers with a combined debt of nearly $8 billion, are facing showdowns over plans to exit bankruptcy as junior creditors are demanding larger repayments.

Sabine and Samson were among the biggest bankruptcies in the energy sector last year, when energy prices began falling sharply. Both proposed to exit Chapter 11 by swapping control of the company to their lenders in return for eliminating billions of dollars of debt.

Both bankruptcy exit plans have run into objections from official committees of unsecured creditors. It is generally more difficult to gain approval of a plan without the committee’s backing.

Sabine’s creditors argued in court papers filed on Wednesday that the company improperly valued lenders’ collateral, which led to a plan that is unfair to unsecured creditors.

While Sabine has proposed giving unsecured creditors equity worth $6.8 million in a reorganized Sabine, the unsecured creditors argued they could be entitled to $268 million. The company’s unsecured creditors are owed $1.4 billion.

In addition, Sabine’s unsecured creditors said the company’s plan does not reflect the recent sharp increase in oil prices, which climbed above $50 a barrel this week.

Samson’s unsecured creditors made similar arguments in court papers filed Tuesday in which they asked the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Delaware to take the relatively rare step of ending the company’s exclusive right to propose a plan of reorganization.

The Samson committee proposed its own plan in which certain unsecured creditors would end up controlling the company through a debt-for-equity swap and a rights offering for shares in the reorganized company.

The Samson unsecured creditors said lenders do not have proper liens on millions of dollars of collateral as they have said. The committee also said the company may have millions of dollars of valuable legal claims stemming from a $7.2 billion buyout of Tulsa, Oklahoma-based Samson in 2011. That deal was led by private equity firm KKR & Co.

Sabine and Samson declined to comment. Both companies said in court filings their plans were a fair allocation of value given volatile energy prices and large amounts of secured debt.

Sabine, which is based in Houston, will seek approval of its plan on June 13 in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in New York. Samson’s plan is still in the early stages of court review. (Editing by Matthew Lewis)

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