Chesapeake Energy ( NYSE:CHK ) (+377%; +8.46%), one of the largest U.S. producers of natural gas, oil, and natural gas liquids, was the Fund's top contributor to performance in 2016 and gained an additional 12% in the fourth quarter. Earlier in the year, we transitioned our equity position into heavily discounted bonds and convertible preferred stock, which offered equity-like returns higher in the capital structure and a potentially faster payback. As the bonds rose close to par, we exited them. At the end of the third quarter, we converted all of our appreciated preferred securities into common stock for an attractive premium. Over the course of the year, management executed beyond expectations, selling various assets, improving the balance sheet through discounted debt repurchases, reducing operating and capital expenditures, and renegotiating midstream contracts. The most recent asset sales in the fourth quarter included a portion of the company's properties in the Haynesville Shale in northern Louisiana for proceeds of approximately $915 million. Signed or closed asset sales reached $2.5 billion in 2016, exceeding management's original target of $1 billion. To further strengthen its balance sheet, the company secured a term loan and convertible debt offering, which raised more capital at better terms than expected. Since the beginning of 2012, Chesapeake has reduced debt by 50%, and its remaining fixed liabilities should be well covered in the coming years. The company has targeted a two times net debt over earnings before interests, taxes, depreciation, and amortization (EBITDA) with cash flow neutrality by 2018 and 5 to 15% of annual production growth by 2020. We salute CEO Doug Lawler and Chesapeake's board, with Brad Martin as Chairman, for their successful pursuit of shareholder value in the face of massive headwinds.
From Longleaf Partners' fourth quarter 2016 commentary .
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