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SandRidge not drilling in its traditional area as it awaits Midstates merger

SandRidge Energy Inc. appears to be in a holding pattern, as the interim CEO indicated a halt in drilling in the shale play the company is known for while a potential takeover by Midstates Petroleum Co. Inc. looms.

For the quarter, SandRidge reported adjusted net income of $11.7 million, or 34 cents per share, but new leadership on an earnings conference call gave no clear plan on how to proceed after a shareholder rebellion led to the ouster of the company's CEO and CFO and a dramatic cut in capital expenditures. In the meantime, a $564 million all-stock offer by Midstates to acquire SandRidge is on the table.

Interim CEO William Griffin said the company will work to build growth internally, not through acquisitions like the failed move to buy Bonanza Creek Energy Inc. that galvanized activist investor Carl Icahn and major shareholder Fir Tree Partners against the previous executive team, CEO James Bennett and CFO Julian Bott.

"[SandRidge will] exercise financial discipline by balancing our economic growth objectives with preservation of our conservatively leveraged balance sheet," Griffin said.

With CapEx for 2018 slashed to between $180 million and $190 million from $247 million, SandRidge is anticipating a significant dropoff in production from 2017 to 2018. Much of the decline will come from the Mississippian Lime play in Kansas and Oklahoma, the longtime centerpiece of the company. Griffin said the company has no plans to drill there in 2018.

Even though the company appears to have pivoted its producing interests away from the Mississippian, Griffin said, there is a chance SandRidge could expand its two-rig drilling program to include the play. "We'll continue to review opportunities to enhance asset value with our core area of operations that leverages our existing saltwater disposal and electrical infrastructure," he said. "We will renew our focus on increased profitability of our Mississippi Lime position."

The positive mention of the play caught the attention of analysts, who are aware of Midstates' sales pitch that a merger with SandRidge would make a combined company with the largest footprint in a play that is still considered subpar. "Comments … on a return to the Mississippian Lime mesh with comments made by Midstates, and are surely not an accident, telling us SandRidge's board is ready to head to the altar," Mizuho analyst Tim Rezvan said.