Chevron Posts Quarterly Loss to Cap Worst Year Since 2016 — 3rd Update
By Christopher M. Matthews and Dave Sebastian
Chevron Corp. posted its third consecutive quarterly loss Friday to close its worst year since 2016, as the global pandemic continues to weigh on the oil-and-gas industry and cloud hopes for renewed economic growth in 2021.
Chevron is looking to turn the corner on one of the most painful years in modern history for oil-and-gas companies. The coronavirus sapped global demand for fossil fuels as the industry also faces longer-term challenges from the rise of electric cars, the proliferation of renewable energy and growing concern about the lasting impact of climate change.
The San Ramon, Calif.-based company is among the first of the energy giants to report their year-end results. For the fourth quarter, Chevron posted a loss of $665 million. For all of 2020, the loss totaled $5.5 billion; Chevron reported nearly $3 billion in profit for 2019.
“We’ve demonstrated that we can survive a year unlike any other and come through it even stronger,” Chief Executive Mike Wirth said in an interview. “Now we’ve got to come through this pandemic and see what the real state of the global economy is, and I think it’s going to be uneven.”
Chevron‘s oil-and-gas-production unit posted $501 million in profit for the fourth quarter, but the results were weighed down by the refining and chemical businesses, as well as higher pension expenses and costs related to the $5 billion acquisition of Noble Energy last year. Analysts had expected Chevron to post a quarterly profit, and the company’s share price fell more than 4% Friday.
Chevron‘s share price has fallen about 23% over the past year, a steep decline but better than many of its peers. Investors have expressed more faith in Chevron than rival Exxon Mobil Corp. because it entered the downturn with a stronger balance sheet. Exxon had about $69 billion in debt as of September, while Chevron had around $35 billion, according to S&P Capital IQ.
Exxon is expected to report its quarterly results on Tuesday.
Chevron‘s stock has been buoyed recently by oil prices climbing about 5% over the past month, as Brent crude, the global benchmark, rose more than 8% over the same period.
Oil traders have been shrugging off expanding coronavirus-related lockdowns in Asia and Europe, anticipating increased oil and gas demand in 2021 as vaccines are distributed, according to analyst Rystad Energy. Oil prices have also been boosted by Saudi Arabia’s pledge to cut another one million barrels a day of oil production in February and March.
Some analysts believe Chevron is poised for a much stronger year. The company could generate about $12 billion in free cash flow in 2021 if Brent oil prices are around $50 a barrel, according to JPMorgan Chase & Co., more than enough to cover its roughly $10 billion in annual dividend payments.
Chevron can now break even if oil is at $46 a barrel, said JPMorgan, after it made steep spending cuts and reduced its workforce in 2020. Last year, Chevron lowered its 2020 capital expenditures to $14 billion from $20 billion, and said it would spend between $14 billion and $16 billion annually through 2025. It had previously said it could spend as much $22 billion a year over that period.
The $665 million fourth-quarter loss compared with a loss of $6.6 billion during the 2019 period, which was driven by a roughly $10 billion write-down. Revenue fell to $25 billion in the 2020 quarter from about $36 billion.
Chevron leaned on its strong balance sheet to complete one of the largest oil-and-gas deals in 2020, its acquisition of Noble Energy, which was completed in October.
The company’s oil and gas production increased 1% in 2020 from the previous year to 3.08 million barrels a day, in part because Chevron added Noble’s output. Morgan Stanley estimates Chevron will produce nearly 3.3 million barrels a day in 2021.
Despite some optimism for an industry rebound in the coming year, long-term questions hover over oil-and-gas companies’ future profitability. This week, S&P Global Ratings warned it could cut the credit rating of Chevron and many other major oil companies over growing risks to the industry from a transition to a lower-carbon economy spurred by concerns about climate change. Such a credit downgrade could increase borrowing costs for the sector, making it more difficult to finance large projects.
On Wednesday, President Biden issued an executive order temporarily suspending new oil and gas leases on federal land, which analysts said signaled a more restrictive U.S. policy outlook for the industry. About 25% of U.S. oil production is tied to federal lands and waters, according to Morgan Stanley, and Chevron has a large presence in both.
Mr. Wirth said the world is moving to a lower-carbon energy system and that Chevron‘s strategy is to simultaneously lower its carbon footprint and generate higher returns. He said he supports President Biden‘s desire to reduce carbon emissions, but said some of the executive orders were broad and risked erecting barriers to responsible energy development.
“The current energy system is not the enemy,” he said. “Emissions are what we should focus on.”
Write to Christopher M. Matthews at firstname.lastname@example.org and Dave Sebastian at email@example.com
(END) Dow Jones Newswires
January 29, 2021 17:15 ET (22:15 GMT)
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