Results come days after Big Oil giant surprises investors with a mammoth US$75-billion share-buyback program
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Published Jan 27, 2023 • 2 minute read
Chevron Corp. posted disappointing fourth-quarter results just days after surprising investors with a mammoth $75 billion share-buyback program.
Fourth-quarter adjusted profit of US$4.09 a share fell 18 U.S. cents shy of the Bloomberg Consensus estimate. The company also incurred a US$1.1 billion writedown in its overseas business. Chevron shares fell 1.5 per cent at 8:15 a.m. in New York.
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The earnings miss was driven mostly by a surge in so-called corporate costs that include things like stock-based compensation, said Biraj Borkhataria, an RBC Capital Markets analyst. Fourth-quarter corporate costs reached US$903 million, 60 per cent above the median forecast.
Chevron chief financial officer Pierre Breber said items such as exploration costs and stock-based compensation can be moving targets that are difficult for analysts to anticipate. The company’s shares ballooned 53 per cent in 2022, the most in data going back to 1981.
“It’s been a volatile year and sometimes the models have to catch up when we beat and sometimes they don’t quite adjust as earnings were lower in the fourth quarter,” Breber said during an interview.
Analysts and investors will be listening closely for more information on the writedown when chief executive officer Mike Wirth and Breber host a conference call at 11 a.m. New York time.
Despite the disappointing quarterly performance, adjusted full-year earnings more than doubled to a record US$36.5 billion, Chevron said in a statement on Friday.
The blockbuster annual profit is likely to irk oil-industry critics in the White House and Congress already incensed by the second-largest U.S. oil explorer’s announcement just days ago of plans to repurchase US$75 billion of its own stock. The amount devoted to buybacks would be enough to buy Occidental Petroleum Corp. or almost any other domestic competitor.
On Thursday, the shares rose the most in almost four months in response to the surprise buyback announcement after the close of equity trading a day earlier. While investors cheered, the Biden administration panned the shareholder-friendly initiative, arguing the cash would be better spent increasing energy supplies to bring down pump prices.
“For a company that claimed not too long ago that it was ‘working hard’ to increase oil production, handing out US$75 billion to executives and wealthy shareholders sure is an odd way to show it,” the White House said in a statement within hours of the company’s announcement.
Chevron returned more than US$22 billion to investors last year in the form of buybacks and dividends.
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Oil companies should “use their record profits to increase supply and reduce costs” for consumers, the White House statement said.
Breber said that’s just what the company is pursuing.
“We’re doing it all,” he said. “We’re investing to grow traditional and new energies.”
Chevron is the first of the five supermajors to report earnings, with Exxon Mobil Corp. scheduled to post results on Jan. 31, followed by Shell PLC, BP PLC and TotalEnergies SE in the coming weeks.