HOUSTON, Aug. 6 (UPI) -- The depressed crude oil market could limit the borrowing options for North American exploration and production companies, analysis finds.
The price for West Texas Intermediate crude oil, the U.S. benchmark, has struggled in recent trading days to break the $50 mark. In early Thursday trading, WTI was $44.72, more than 50 percent lower than this time last year.
Paul O'Donnel, an equity analyst at IHS Energy, said the low price of crude oil, and expectations that the weak market will endure, spells trouble for companies focused on exploration and production.
"Prolonged depressed prices for oil are hurting many of the [exploration and production companies] and will begin to limit their borrowing options," he said in a statement.
Marathon Oil this week became the latest in a string of companies focused on exploration and production to post a decline in quarterly earnings. IHS notes that companies from Apache Corp. and shale leader Chesapeake Energy are among those this quarter posting major impairment charges, those a company has to write off because of a decline in net asset worth.
IHS finds that those companies that can figure out a way to endure in the cycle of lower oil prices will come out of the downturn stronger.
"I think it is fair to say that companies who are constrained as far as borrowing is concerned, could be candidates for asset sales or corporate acquisition targets," he said.