Chevron Corp. reported earnings that were substantially better than expected, but will cut capital spending by 25 percent and employment by over 10 percent if the price of crude oil remains below $50 a barrel.
With its stock hitting a record all-time high of $133 a share in July 2014, Chevron announced last year that its capital spending for 2015 would remain highly elevated at $35 billion. Coming off a period with a 66 percent worldwide drilling success rate, and 35 new exploration discoveries adding 1.4 billion barrels of oil to the company’s reserves, analysts predicted record earnings and much higher stock prices.
But the optimism about the future prospects for America’s second-biggest oil company came just before crude-oil prices crashed by 60 percent and natural gas prices crashed by 40 percent. Chevron’s stock price plummeted relentlessly over the next 9 months before bottoming at $70 a share in August 2015.
Chevron reported earnings for the third quarter ending September of $2.04 billion, or $1.09 per share. That was substantially higher than the 76 cents per share the now pessimistic analysts had estimated. The positive surprise was driven by revenue coming in at $34.32 billion versus the analysts’ predictions of less than $30 billion. The better-than-expected performance lifted the stock in after-hours trading to $90.88 a share.
Chevron’s performance would have been much stronger, but the company was forced to suspend its huge exploration, transportation, technology licensing and consumer products activities in Russia due to U.S. and EU financial sanctions. Since 2011, Chevron has put up 80 percent of the $2.7 billion in capital to build the initial phase of the Caspian Pipeline. But due to the sanctions, Chevron has suspended the business and is not recording any revenue and profit from the highly profitable project.
In what may be an excellent development for Chevron, Breitbart News reported last week that after gaining enormous international leverage through his surprise military intervention in Syria, Russian President Vladimir Putin appears ready to cooperate with the European Union to remove economic sanctions. Such an event would be a huge positive for Chevron.