Exxon Falls After Holding Line on Buybacks Amid Record Profit
(Bloomberg) — Exxon Mobil Corp. dropped almost 4% after signaling investors won’t see any additional rewards from the oil giant’s record $59 billion annual profit.
Most Read from Bloomberg
Wall Street Is Losing Out to Amateur Buyers in the Housing Slump
Sony Slashes PlayStation VR2 Headset Output After Pre-Orders Disappoint
Trump Sues Journalist Bob Woodward for Releasing Interview Recordings
The ‘Big Shift’ That’s Finally Causing Rents to Fall
Adani Rout Hits $68 Billion as Fight With Hindenburg Intensifies
Exxon’s full-year profit, excluding one-time items, jumped 157% from 2021 to $59.1 billion, far exceeding the driller’s prior record of $45.2 billion in 2008, which at the time marked the biggest in US corporate history.
But investors looking past the top-line numbers were disappointed the company failed to announce plans to funnel more of that windfall into additional share repurchases. The stock fell almost 4% in pre-market US trading.
Exxon’s results Tuesday followed those of US rival Chevron Corp., which posted a surprise earnings miss last week just days after announcing a mammoth $75 billion share-buyback program.
The five so-called supermajors are swimming in cash after a record 2022 but pressure is mounting on executive teams to satisfy competing demands: investor appetite for bigger payouts and buybacks versus political outrage over windfall profits during a time of war and economic dislocation.
Chevron was excoriated by the White House and Democratic members of Congress when it disclosed plans last week to funnel $75 billion to investors in the form of stock repurchases.
Exxon expanded buybacks multiple times last year and already has signaled its intention to repurchase $50 billion of stock through 2024. Chief Executive Officer Darren Woods is likely to be probed on whether Exxon can increase the pace of buybacks again when he hosts a conference call with analysts at 8:30 a.m. New York time.
There are also signs that Wall Street, after a long hiatus, is once again keen to see oil explorers increasing crude output. Chevron executives faced multiple questions about growth plans last week, and several analysts noted their disappointment at the California-based company’s outlook for a flat-to-3% increase this year. A slowdown in Chevron’s Permian Basin annual growth to 10% probably will be an “overhang” on the stock, Cowen & Co. said in a note to clients.
That said, Exxon has less reason to be concerned about when it comes to growth than some of its peers. The company has a “differentiated upstream project queue” that should increase return on capital over the coming years, Goldman Sachs wrote in a Jan. 20 note.
On a quarterly basis, Exxon surpassed expectations for the ninth time in 10 periods, posting adjusted fourth-quarter profit of $3.40 a share that was 10 cents higher than the median estimate by analysts in the Bloomberg Consensus.
The Texas oil giant has continued to invest in major projects in Guyana and the Permian region during the pandemic, which by Exxon’s own estimates should have the knock-on effect of driving production to the equivalent of more than 4 million barrels a day by 2027, up about 8% from current levels.
Alongside fossil-fuel growth, Exxon plans to ramp up spending on clean-energy investments by focusing on carbon capture, hydrogen and biofuels. The company cited the Biden administration’s Inflation Reduction Act as a key policy pillar that improves profitability of decarbonizing existing operations, but has said that more government support is needed for big projects such as its proposal to capture emissions from industrial facilities along the Houston Ship Channel.
Most Read from Bloomberg Businessweek
After 30 Years, the King of ETFs Faces a Fight for Its Crown
A $500 Million Bet on Reinvigorating Japan’s Aging Ski Industry
How to Be 18 Years Old Again for Only $2 Million a Year
The Secret to EV Success Is the Software
Spanish-Speaking Streamers Are the Hottest Thing on Twitch
©2023 Bloomberg L.P.