Rex Energy Corp. (NASDAQ: REXX) threw Utica Shale ballast overboard Jan. 4, saying it will divest noncore Ohio acreage as it attempts to lighten its balance sheet.

Rex agreed to sell Warrior South assets to Antero Resources Corp. (NYSE: AR), netting expected proceeds of about $30 million. The deal includes 4,100 net acres in Guernsey, Noble and Belmont counties, Ohio.

Proceeds from the sale will be used to pay debt and meet general expenses.

Production on the assets represents less than 5% of the company’s total, said Gordon Douthat, senior analyst at Wells Fargo Securities.

Following an Illinois Basin divestiture in August, “the sale represents another step in the right direction though with leverage still well above 10x throughout 2017, the company has significant restructuring left ahead,” Douthat said.

Despite the divestments, Rex will maintain a $190 million borrowing base. The company said its lenders will support the credit facility following the Utica divestiture, which Rex expects to close in first-quarter 2017.

“Rex Energy routinely evaluates our asset portfolio to align our development plans with the strategic deployment of capital,” said Tom Stabley, Rex’s president and CEO.

“This transaction is another in a series of initiatives we've undertaken in the last 12 months to strengthen our balance sheet and enhance Rex's liquidity position,” he said. “Once completed, the sale of the Warrior South assets, plus our previous sale of the Illinois Basin and other noncore assets, will have generated over $71 million of additional liquidity.”

Pro-forma for the deal, Rex has nearly $94 million in liquidity, said David Deckelbaum, an analyst at KeyBanc Capital Markets.

“The deal largely compensates for production value, coming in roughly $10 million below our valuation estimate in our model, although the more challenging economics in the condensate window, lower working interest of 63% and limited footprint point to a fair valuation,” Deckelbaum said.

Rex has largely completed most of its identifiable noncore asset sales, he said.

Rex previously agreed to sell 76,000 net acres in Illinois, Indiana and Kentucky for $40 million, with up to $10 million more in proceeds contingent on commodity prices.

RELATED: Rex Energy Agrees To Exit Illinois Basin

The company will provide an update on 2017 and 2018 development, capital and financial plans and production projections after the Warrior South Sale closes.

Darren Barbee can be reached at