Markets News

WRAPUP 1-Chevron, Exxon shrink spending as coronavirus cuts demand

Oct 30 (Reuters) - U.S. oil giants Chevron Corp and Exxon Mobil Inc cut spending aggressively in the third quarter in a race to beat weak trends in fuel demand caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, though the former managed a slim profit.

Exxon posted its third straight quarter of losses and reduced spending plans for the coming year.

In common with other energy majors, the two are laying off a substantial portion of their workforce and expect to cut costs further as both try to reverse years of weak stock performance, worsened by the impact of movement restrictions.

U.S. oil prices have dropped 41% this year as the coronavirus forced billions of people into lockdowns. Demand recovered in the late northern hemisphere summer, but nations including Germany, India and the United States are again tackling a surge in infections, stemming demand for gasoline, diesel and jet fuel.

The outlook for energy consumption “depends on when the world - this country and other countries - get control of the pandemic and those activities resume. We don’t know when that’s going to be,” said Chevron Chief Financial Officer Pierre Breber.

Chevron, the second-largest U.S. oil producer by production, earned $201 million in the most recent quarter, compared with a profit of $2.9 billion for the year-earlier period. Exxon posted a loss of $680 million, the third straight quarterly loss.

Exxon came into the year with an ambitious spending plan driven by investments in shale and offshore discoveries, particularly off the coast of Guyana. It originally planned to spend $33 billion in capital and exploration investment in 2020; through three quarters it has instead spent just $16.6 billion.

Next year, the largest U.S. oil producer said capital spending would be between $16 billion to $19 billion, from an adjusted plan for spending around $23 billion this year.

Earlier this week, Exxon said it would cut its workforce by about 15% and kept its fourth-quarter dividend flat at 87 cents a share, making 2020 the first year since 1982 that it has not raised its shareholder payout.

The company, once the most valuable in the United States by market capitalization, was this month surpassed in value by wind and solar provider NextEra.

In the top U.S. oil field, the Permian Basin shale field, Chevron expects output to dip to around 550,000 barrels of oil and gas per day, from 565,000 barrels per day this quarter, Breber said. It is likely to maintain that level until the global economy recovers.

Exxon’s Permian output was around 401,000 barrels per day in the third quarter and it said its costs there had dropped 20%.

Reporting By Jennifer Hiller in Houston, Arathy Nair and Shariq Khan in Bangalore; Writing by David Gaffen; editing by Barbara Lewis