* Says 2015 capital budget will drop 20 pct to $13.5 bln
* To cut investment on less developed shales in N. America
* No plans for broad workforce reductions - spokesman (Adds company spokesman’s comments; updates shares)
By Swetha Gopinath
Dec 8 (Reuters) - ConocoPhillips said its 2015 capital budget would be 20 percent, or about $3 billion, lower than this year‘s, the biggest spending cut by a U.S. oil and gas producer in dollar terms as oil prices hit five-year lows.
Shares of the company, which set a budget of $13.5 billion for 2015, fell as much as 3.5 percent to $65.50 on the New York Stock Exchange on Monday.
ConocoPhillips said it would “defer significant investment” on less developed projects in the Montney and Duvernay fields in Canada, the Permian Basin in Texas and the Niobrara shale field, which extends over Colorado, Wyoming, Nebraska and Kansas.
“The announced budget is well below our expectations of $15 billion,” Simmons & Co analysts wrote in a note.
ConocoPhillips, which is focusing on the Eagle Ford shale in Texas and North Dakota’s Bakken shale, said it would also spend less on major projects, many of which are nearing completion.
Global oil and gas projects worth more than $150 billion are likely to be put on hold next year, according to Norwegian consultancy Rystad Energy.
Despite lower investment, ConocoPhillips said it expected production from fields outside of Libya to rise 3 percent in 2015. In October, the company forecast 3-5 percent growth.
“This plan demonstrates our focus on cash-flow neutrality and a competitive dividend, while maintaining our financial strength,” Chief Executive Ryan Lance said.
Several oil producers, including Denbury Resources Inc and Halcon Resources Corp, have set lower budgets for 2015, following a 42 percent drop in crude prices since June.
Some companies plan to deploy fewer rigs next year and a couple of service companies have announced job cuts.
“We don’t have any plans for broad workforce reductions,” ConocoPhillips spokesman Daren Beaudo said in an e-mail. “We will continue our practice of looking at business needs across the company and making adjustments, as appropriate.”
Schlumberger Ltd, the world’s No.1 oilfield services provider, said last week that it would cut jobs. Driller Hercules Offshore Inc announced last month a 15 percent workforce reduction.
Tepid demand growth and forecasts that global oversupply would persist until next year because of OPEC’s refusal to reduce output are weighing on oil prices.
Brent crude, which was at $115 per barrel in June, fell to about $66 on Monday. (Editing by Don Sebastian and Kirti Pandey)