Tue, 04 Aug 2020

US Oil Giants Report Big Losses, Prepare for Longer Downturn

Voice of America
01 Aug 2020, 10:05 GMT+10

NEW YORK - Exxon Mobil and Chevron reported hefty losses in the latest quarter Friday as the weakened economic outlook because of the coronavirus pandemic pressures the industry to double down on cost cuts.

"We've never seen a market demand crash so far so deep," said Neil Chapman, Exxon Mobil senior vice president.

While he noted early signs of recovery in motor fuel demand, a recovery in jet fuel is "likely to be much slower," Chapman said, pointing to a dearth of international flights.

Exxon Mobil reported a loss of $1.1 billion in the second quarter, the biggest since the Exxon-Mobil merger in 1999.

Chevron lost $8.3 billion in the same period, as it slashed the value of assets on expectations that commodity prices would stay down longer.

The figures incorporated a downgrade to the value of assets in Venezuela.

Weak economic conditions could weigh on Chevron's results "into the third quarter" because of "significantly reduced" demand for petroleum-based products, Chief Executive Mike Wirth warned.

"Given the uncertainties associated with economic recovery, and ample oil and gas supplies, we made a downward revision to our commodity price outlook which resulted in asset impairments and other charges," he said.

And Chevron's chief financial officer, Pierre Breber, said on a conference call that the company was preparing for oil prices that are "lower for longer."

More deals ahead?

The losses came on the heels of similar reports Thursday from Royal Dutch Shell, Total and Eni and underscored the depressed state of affairs globally for a sector tied closely to the real economy.

Exxon Mobil's revenues fell by more than 50% to $32.6 billion in the quarter, while Chevron's revenues fell by almost two-thirds to $13.5 billion.

Although oil prices have returned to around $40 a barrel, they were still significantly below the same period of 2019. That led to losses at both companies in exploration and production.

Weak demand also weighed on downstream operations, although Exxon Mobil's international refining arm was profitable thanks to lower expenses and improved operations compared with the 2019 period.

Chapman, in a conference call with analysts, said the company was reevaluating its oil price assumptions, but signaled it would rein in spending and not take on any more debt.

The company in April slashed its capital spending plan to $23 billion from $33 billion.

Chapman said the company would reduce its rig fleet in the Permian Basin in Texas in the second half of 2020. He also said the 2021 capital budget would be under $19 billion.

However, he defended the dividend to investors of $0.87 a share as a major priority and said the view on energy demand in the longer term had not changed.

In comparison, rival Royal Dutch Shell slashed its dividend in May. The Anglo-Dutch company has also pledged to be carbon-neutral by 2050.

Deal-making often accelerates in the oil industry as stronger companies gobble up financially strapped competitors.

Chevron earlier this month announced it would acquire U.S. shale producer Noble Energy for $5 billion, the biggest petroleum acquisition amid the downturn.

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