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CRC keeps mum after expiration of critical deadline

Midway-Sunset rigs

The Midway-Sunset Oil Field near Taft.

A high-stakes financing deadline for one of Kern's biggest oil producers has come and gone this week with no word from the company on what happened or what comes next.

Santa Clarita-based California Resources Corp., which said in April it had about 730 employees and 1,700 contractors in Kern, had until 8:59 p.m. Tuesday to pay some of its biggest creditors tens of millions of dollars that had been due May 29.

Shortly after noon Wednesday, company spokeswoman Margita Thompson said by email the company had no information to share and that it did not plan to make any public statements the rest of the day.

As Tuesday's deadline approached, the hope was that the company could work out an agreement with lenders that would give CRC additional time to make payments or perhaps restructure its debts.

Short of that, speculation published in national media has held that the company would have no choice but to file bankruptcy, which could mean liquidation of its assets or forced renegotiation of its debts.

The company's publicly traded stock rose 2 cents Wednesday to close at $1.24. Its shares have languished for months after falling from a peak of $20.13 almost a year ago.

CRC's problems are not limited to its struggles to pay off nearly $5 billion in debt left over from its 2014 spinoff from Occidental Petroleum Corp. Low oil prices have worsened the company's challenges, forcing it to shut in oil production, cut paid hours for its local workforce and slash capital investments.

On Thursday, CRC announced a $1.74 billion hit to its first-quarter earnings based on an assessment its assets were now worth less money than what the company paid for them.

Besides cutting the company's revenues, the sustained drop in global oil prices since the start of the year has also had the effect of torpedoing a debt-restructuring agreement CRC had hoped to finalize in March.

CRC warned in May it might not survive if it was unable to arrive at a better financial situation.

The Wall Street Journal reported prior to the passage of Tuesday's deadline that CRC was talking with lenders about a financing package of up to $600 million that would allow the company to continue operating through a planned bankruptcy proceeding.

Aside from the $30 million in interest payments CRC has fallen behind on, the company faces what President and CEO Todd Stevens said in February was a "maturity wall" of debt scheduled to become due at the end of next year.