Exxon Mobil Corp. surpassed profit expectations for the ninth time in 10 quarters as robust fuel-making margins rounded out the oil giant’s best-ever annual performance.
(Bloomberg) — Exxon Mobil Corp. surpassed profit expectations for the ninth time in 10 quarters as robust fuel-making margins rounded out the oil giant’s best-ever annual performance.
Adjusted fourth-quarter profit of $3.40 a share was 10 cents higher than the median estimate by analysts in the Bloomberg Consensus. Full-year profit of $55.7 billion far exceeded Exxon’s prior record of $45.2 billion in 2008, which at the time marked the biggest in US corporate history.
Exxon’s outperformance was in marked contrast to US rival Chevron Corp., which last week posted a surprise earnings miss last week just days after announcing a mammoth $75 billion share-buyback program.
But some investors were disappointed Exxon failed to announce any additional share repurchases on Tuesday and the stock fell almost 4% in pre-market US trading.
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.
The Texas oil giant 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.
(Adds share decline and lack of new share buybacks in fourth paragraph.)