Ultra Petroleum, former owner of 18,000 acres of undeveloped land in Banning Lewis Ranch, has made the news locally for settling a breach-of-contract suit with Rockies Express Pipeline.
The terms of the agreement, according to a press release, includes $150 million to REX six months after Ultra emerges from its Chapter 11 proceedings, but must be paid by Oct. 30. Ultra will also contract with REX for transportation for seven years starting Dec. 2, 2019.
Ultra sold its land holdings to Nor’wood Development Group, currently negotiating with the city of Colorado Springs to amend its annexation agreement. But the petroleum company, based in Texas, still owns mineral rights to the land.
Ultra filed bankruptcy in April. In the filings with the U.S. Bankruptcy Court, Southern District in Texas, Ultra said it had assets of $1.2 billion and its debts equalled more than $3.9 billion. It estimated its liabilities in the same range, according to court documents. It owed Rockies Express Pipeline more than $303 million and its largest debt was private placement notes issued by Ultra Resources for $1.4 billion. It also owes $1.3 billion to Delaware Trust and $999 million to J.P. Morgan Chase, as well as varying amounts to other banks and creditors.
The entities filing chapter 11, under the Ultra umbrella include:
• Ultra Petroleum Corp.
• Keystone Gas Gathering, LLC
• Ultra Resources, Inc.
• Ultra Wyoming Inc.
• Ultra Wyoming LGS LLC
• UP Energy Corporation
• UPL Pinedale LLC
• UPL Three Rivers Holdings LLC
According to the company’s third quarter filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission, Ultra says it is operating under Chapter 11 protection and is conducting “business activities in the ordinary course.” It’s still paying employees, taxes, fees and operating its cash management systems. It is also settling with debtors as it goes through the process.
The filings show that Ultra has extended time to come up with a plan of its own — but if it hasn’t filed by March 1, then it will face other proposals about how to settle its debt.
Bloomberg News reports that the Ultra bankruptcy is unusual for large bankruptcy cases. The company’s debt is unsecured, meaning no single creditor — no matter how large the debt owed — is first in line to get paid. Since none of the debt is secured by the company’s $1 billion assets, senior bankers were at the same level as smaller creditors, according to Bloomberg. The banks, including JP Morgan Chase, Citibank and Deutsche Bank AG, got out when the company first filed bankruptcy in April, Bloomberg reports.
At the time JP Morgan Chase made the loan, oil prices were high and the natural gas prices were on the upswing, Bloomberg said. Natural gas makes up most of Ultra’s portfolio. Still, analysts say it was a risky move by the banks — signaling they believed that oil prices would stay higher than they have.
Even when prices dropped in 2014, Ultra was able to obtain an additional $850 million in unsecured bonds, Bloomberg reports. The reason: As interest rates stay low, investors looked for increasingly risky investments to earn money.