Weatherford files for bankruptcy protection

The oilfield services company Weatherford International filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection Monday, after struggling to assimilate the companies it bought during a quest for growth, taking on too much debt and fighting to recover from falling oil prices in 2014 that hammered the energy industry.

Weatherford, which got its start in 1941 and had grown to become the nation’s fourth-largest oil field services provider, reported to the bankruptcy court in Houston that it had as much as $10 billion in liabilities, including $7.5 billion in unsecured bond debt. Weatherford said in its bankruptcy filing that it could not determine the value of the debt from its other largest creditors.

The other debts involve litigation expenses, according to the bankruptcy filing.

Weatherford said Friday that nearly 80 percent of its creditors are backing Weatherford’s reorganization plan. The company has not made a profit since the third quarter of 2014.

Weatherford’s reorganization plan allows the Swiss company with its principal place of operations in Houston to shed $5.8 billion of its $7.6 billion in long-term debt — in exchange for 99 percent of the stock in the reorganized company. The agreement also provides the company with $1.75 billion in fresh credit and loans.

Weatherford went on a buying spree two decades ago, eager to join the ranks of the biggest oilfield services companies, the so-called Big Three: Schlumberger, Halliburton and Baker Hughes. Weatherford paid for many of the deals using debt. The company was having difficulty integrating the new acquisitions during the best of times and problems only multiplied after oil prices collapsed in 2014.

The company’s stock price fell below $1 a share in November, leading to its stock listing removal in May by the New York Stock Exchange.

Weatherford had 67,000 employees at the beginning of 2014 but today, it has about 26,500 workers.

This article first appeared on the Houston Chronicle – an Energy Voice content partner. For more from the Houston Chronicle click here.

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