The Meridian Resource Corporation reports that as of the end of the first quarter, 2004, the Company's long-term debt has been reduced by an additional $25.3 million. The reduction in long-term debt was comprised of $5.3 million of cash payments on the senior credit facility and the conversion of $20.0 million of the Company's 9 1/2 % Convertible Subordinated Notes at $5.00 per share, bringing the total outstanding senior and sub-debt position of the Company to $127 million, down from approximately $204 million at the end of calendar year 2002. As previously reported, Meridian has budgeted approximately $95 million in capital expenditures during 2004 and plans to continue to utilize excess cash flow to reduce debt and improve its balance sheet and liquidity.
In addition, during 2004 the holders of approximately 73,000 shares of the Company's convertible preferred stock have converted into common stock reducing the total outstanding value of the preferred shares to $53 million from a high of approximately $73 million during 2003.
Meridian maintains its exploration and exploitation focus searching for new reserves in the south Louisiana and south Texas Gulf Coast regions. The Company believes that its exploration strategy will result in plays similar to its Biloxi Marshlands project area and its Thornwell field in west Louisiana, both of which utilize 3-D seismic to identify potential hydrocarbon indicators for shallower, higher-confidence, multiple-well plays.