Exxon, Chevron, Conoco: What to Expect From Earnings

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The top two public oil and gas companies in the world, according to Platts Top 250 rankings from last October, are Exxon Mobil Corp. (NYSE: XOM) and Chevron Corp. (NYSE: CVX). Farther down the list, at number 13, is ConocoPhillips Corp. (NYSE: COP). All three report first-quarter earnings this week, Exxon and Conoco on Thursday and Chevron on Friday.

In the two years since Conoco spun off its refining business into Phillips 66 (NYSE: PSX), Conoco’s share price has gone up about 3.5%, compared with share price hikes of 17% for Exxon and 18% for Chevron. But over the past 12 months, Conoco’s shares are up 23%, compared with about 13% for Exxon and just 3% for Chevron.

All three have talked about their future plans recently, and only Conoco plans to increase its capital spending to $16 billion in 2014, while Exxon is cutting capex from $42.5 billion in 2013 to $39.8 billion and Chevron expects capex to be flat for the next two years at around $38 billion. Chevron also said that it expects to sell some $7 billion to $10 billion in assets over the next three years.

And while many industry observers are trying to figure out when the West Texas Intermediate price will drop to $75 a barrel due to expected domestic production growth, Chevron’s CEO has a different view:

Essentially, for a company like mine and many others, $100 a barrel is becoming the new $20 in our business.

We think that any discussion of $75 oil should really be about $95 oil, especially for the big integrated oil companies we’re looking at here. Their finding, development, exploration and production costs could easily reach $70 to $75 a barrel. Oil at $75 a barrel will stay in the ground until the price goes up.

Exxon is expected to post earnings per share (EPS) of $1.88 on revenues of $109.78 billion. In the year-ago quarter the company posted EPS of $2.12 on revenues of $108.81 billion. Higher revenues and lower profits indicate higher costs. Domestic prices for crude have been lower than a year ago, while international prices have been somewhat higher. On the whole, prices have been lower this year though, and production is likely to be lower as well due to weather and other factors.

Chevron is expected to post EPS of $2.51 on revenues of $54.47 billion, compared with EPS of $3.18 on revenues of $56.82 billion in the first quarter of 2013. Given pricing and production levels, Chevron is in about the same shape as Exxon.

The EPS estimate for Conoco is $1.56 on revenues of $15.13 billion, compared with EPS of $1.42 on revenues of $14.65 billion. This is pretty aggressive given the state of the industry, so we’ll just wait and see.

All three traded down in the early afternoon on Wednesday. Exxon was down 0.3%, at $101.12 in a 52-week range of $84.79 to $101.74. Chevron traded down 0.2%, at $125.72 in a 52-week range of $109.27 to $127.83, and Conoco was also down 0.2%, at $74.55 in a 52-week range of $58.71 to $74.95.

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