After closing just shy of $91 a share on the first day of trading in 2017, Exxon Mobil Corp. (NYSE: XOM) stock closed Friday nearly 8.6% below that number. The price of WTI crude oil has dropped just 1.4% since the beginning of the year, from $53.75 a barrel to $53.01 through February 6, the last date for which U.S. Energy Information Administration data is available.
The company is almost certainly going to have to write down the carrying value of its assets — the only question is by how much.
Full-year profits declined by 40%, from $2.78 billion in the year-ago quarter to $1.68 billion. In the upstream division net profit totaled $196 million including a $2 billion impairment charge. Excluding the impairment charge, profits fell from $4.9 billion in 2015 to $2.2 billion.
This is what Exxon said about the impairment charge in its earnings report:
However, the carrying values for certain asset groups in the United States exceeded the estimated cash flows. As a result, the corporation’s fourth quarter 2016 results include an after-tax charge of $2 billion to reduce the carrying value of those assets to fair value. The asset groups subject to this impairment charge are primarily dry gas operations in the Rocky Mountains region of the United States with large undeveloped acreage positions.
Since January 31, when the company reported results, the stock has lost 1.7%. Shares got a bit of a boost on Friday from the International Energy Agency’s (IEA) January report that claimed the OPEC production cuts reached 90% of their agreed-upon goal in the month.
In mid-January Exxon paid $6.6 billion to acquire roughly 275,000 net acres in the Permian Basin and the company plans to begin drilling on the acreage later this year. Exxon may have been a little late to expand its position in the most magical play in the U.S. oil patch, but this is the company’s largest acquisition since it paid $40 billion for XTO Energy in 2010.
Even if production from the Permian doesn’t begin this year, the acquisition adds more than 6 billion barrels of oil equivalent to Exxon’s assets, and that will make a difference to the company’s valuation and how much it has to pay for borrowing.
Exxon’s shares closed at $82.52 on Friday, up 0.8% for the day in a 52-week range of $79.67 to $95.55. The consensus 12-month price target is $88.57, in a range of $72 to $105 per share.