HOUSTON: Exxon Mobil has reported a 5.2 percent drop in fourth quarter profit, as assets sales propped up flat year-over-year oil and gas output and weakness in its refining and chemicals businesses.
Oil companies last quarter suffered from weaker prices for their products, and in Exxon’s case it has been spending heavily to boost its oil output to reverse production declines.
The Exxon Mobil stock is down nearly 29 percent since Chief Executive Darren Woods took over three years ago. Its production in the Permian Basin, the largest US shale field, was up 54 percent from a year ago. But quarterly profits on US production were down 74 percent as the company spent heavily to boost output and suffered from lower natural gas prices.
Overall, the exploration and production business, its largest, benefited the most from the sale of production assets in Norway for $4.5 billion to Vår Energi AS.
Analysts said the weakness across its businesses means Exxon will still have to borrow to cover its shareholder dividend.
Investors have been pushing oil companies to improve their returns by increasing dividends or share buybacks.
Exxon has frozen its share repurchases except for offsetting dilution for employee awards.
“Unlike its peers, the company is not generating free cash flow given its large capital spending program,” said Jennifer Rowland, analyst with Edward Jones.
Net income attributable to Exxon fell to $5.69 billion, or $1.33 per share, in the three months ended Dec. 31, from $6 billion, or $1.41 per share, a year earlier.
Excluding one-time items, per share earnings were 41 cents, below Wall Street’s consensus expectation of 43 cents, according to Refinitiv. Analysts earlier this month had slashed estimates from 71 cents after the company warned of weakness in chemicals and refining.
Unlike its peers, the company (Exxon Mobil) is not generating free cash flow given its large capital spending program.
Jennifer Rowland, Analyst with Edward Jones
The largest US oil producer’s oil and gas output rose less than 1 percent to 4.02 million barrels per day in the quarter, the sixth quarter in a row of year-over year gains.
Earlier this week, the company raised its Guyana oil estimates by 2 billion barrels, bringing total recoverable oil and gas resources from the discovery to more than 8 billion barrels.
Also on Friday, Chevron posted a fourth quarter loss as the oil major booked an impairment charge of $10.4 billion related largely to a deep-water Gulf of Mexico project, shale gas assets in Appalachia and the Kitmat LNG project in Canada.
The company had in December warned of up to $11 billion in asset writedowns and said it was considering the sale of its stake in the Appalachian shale and in the proposed Kitmat project.
Net loss attributable to Chevron was $6.61 billion, or $3.51 per share, in the three months ended Dec. 31, compared with a profit of $3.73 billion, or $1.95 per share, a year earlier.
The company also booked a gain of $1.2 billion in the quarter on the sale of its UK Central North Sea assets.
Chevron’s net oil equivalent production was flat at 3.08 million barrels per day in the quarter, while average sales prices fell in the US and internationally.