Exxon Mobil and Chevron announced deep spending cuts Friday as the petroleum industry girds for a potentially prolonged downturn due to low commodity prices in the wake of the coronavirus crisis.
Both US oil giants announced the belt-tightening moves as they reported first quarter results, a period that saw oil prices retreat, but which preceded the first-ever drop in US crude futures to negative territory in April.
The two US giants said they were preserving cash to maintain a dividend for investors. On Thursday, European rival Royal Dutch Shell cut its dividend for the first time since the 1940s.
“Covid-19 has significantly impacted near-term demand, resulting in oversupplied markets and unprecedented pressure on commodity prices and margins,” said Exxon Mobil Chief Executive Darren Woods.
“While we manage through these challenging times, we are not losing sight of the long-term fundamentals that drive our business. Economic activity will return, and populations and standards will increase, which will, in turn, drive demand for our products and recovery of the industry.”
Exxon Mobil reported a $610 million loss for the first quarter, compared with $2.4 billion in profits in the year-ago period. Revenues fell 11.7 percent to $56.2 billion.
The loss included $2.9 billion in non-cash costs on inventory and assets because of low commodity prices.
US oil futures have remained volatile since closing in negative territory for the first time on April 20. While major oil producers have reached agreement to trim output, analysts have said the market remains brittle due to weak demand in the wake of coronavirus shutdowns.
Exxon Mobil reduced capital spending by 30 percent to around $23 billion for 2020 and will trim operating expenses by 15 percent.
The company will slow some projects in the US Permian Basin and Mozambique, as well as expansions of downstream and chemical plants. The company “continues to monitor market developments and evaluation additional reduction steps,” Exxon Mobil said.
Downstream boosts Chevron
Chevron reported first-quarter profits of $3.6 billion, up 35.9 percent from the year-ago period. Revenues fell 10.5 percent to $31.5 billion.
Although oil and natural gas prices were lower than in the year-ago period, the company’s downstream division scored much higher profits due in part to lower crude prices.
Still, the company’s press release noted that “financial results in future periods are expected to be depressed as long as current market conditions persist.”
Chevron announced it was further trimming 2020 capital spending by $2 billion to $14 billion in response to the operating environment. The company in late March had slashed the budget by 20 percent.
“Chevron is responding to these unprecedented challenges by making changes to what we control, and with a commitment to protect the long-term health and value of the company,” said Chief Executive Mike Wirth.
Shares of Exxon Mobil fell 1.3% to $45.86 in pre-market trading, while Chevron shed 0.6% to $91.45.