What to Look for in Exxon, Chevron Earnings

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Two U.S. supermajor integrated oil companies, Exxon Mobil Corp. (NYSE: XOM) and Chevron Corp. (NYSE: CVX), are set to report third quarter results before the opening bell Friday. Earnings estimates for both have been scaled back over the past three months, for both quarterly and full-year profits.

Analysts are looking for Chevron to post earnings per share (EPS) of $0.37 and revenues of $29.05 billion. In the same period last year, Chevron’s EPS totaled $1.22 and revenues rang in at $34.31 billion.

The consensus estimate for Exxon Mobil calls for EPS of $0.58, compared with $1.01 in the same quarter last year. Revenues are forecast to reach $61.34 billion, compared with last year’s total of $67.34 billion.

One interesting sidelight of the pending reports is how the two companies talk about the future. In July, Chevron gave the green light to a $36.8 billion expansion of operations in the Tengiz field offshore of Kazakhstan in the Caspian Sea. First oil from the expansion project is not due until 2022. Chevron is a 50% stakeholder and the operator of the field.

The announcement came amid predictions that the lack of capital spending over the past couple of years means that supplies may be constrained over the next several years as oil companies rev up to invest in massive projects like Tengiz

Exxon holds about a one-sixth stake in the Kashagan field, also in the Caspian Sea. Shell will be the operator of the field. Kashagan took 16 years and $60 billion before producing its first barrels earlier this month. Production is supposed to grow from around 90,000 barrels a day initially to 370,000 barrels a day by next year, but there are plenty of skeptics.

Earlier this month, Exxon CEO Rex Tillerson said he doesn’t believe that the world is facing a major collapse in supplies of oil over the next several years. Exxon is also a 25% stakeholder in Tengiz.

The inferences we might draw from Tillerson’s statement are that Exxon will increase activity in its North American assets as crude prices rise and that the company may have made its last massive investment in a field that takes billions of dollars and years to develop.

Investors have adopted a wait-and-see attitude Thursday. Shares of both companies were trading up about 0.1% or so ahead of the earnings announcements Friday morning.

Chevron traded at $101.32, in a 52-week range of $75.33 to 107.58. The consensus 12-month price target on the stock is $111.46.

Exxon traded at $87.28, in a 52-week range of $71.55 to $95.55. The consensus target is $89.50.