What a Net Loss Means for ConocoPhillips Dividend

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ConocoPhillips (NYSE: COP) reported third-quarter 2015 results before markets opened Thursday. The oil and gas production company posted an adjusted diluted net loss per share of $0.38 on revenues of $7.51 billion. In the same period a year ago, the company reported earnings per share (EPS) of $1.29 on revenues of $12.92 billion. Third-quarter results also compare to the Thomson Reuters consensus estimates for a net loss of $0.38 and $8.11 billion in revenues.

Special items for the quarter totaled $605 million, of which $246 million was due to a rig contract termination with Ensco. The other large item was an impairment charge of $154 million. On a GAAP basis, Conoco’s third-quarter net loss totaled $0.87 per share ($1.07 billion).

Conoco once again lowered its capex guidance, from $11.0 billion to $10.2 billion, for the 2015 fiscal year and reduced operating cost guidance from $8.9 billion to $8.2 billion. In January of 2015, capex was forecast at $11.5 billion.

In the second quarter, production totaled 1.55 million barrels of oil equivalent per day, of which 577 million barrels was crude oil, up from 565 million barrels of oil per day in the same period last year. The average realized price per barrel of oil fell from $96.67 in the third quarter of 2014 to $46.41. Sequentially, the average realized price per barrel of crude fell by $11.59.

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The company’s outlook for 2015 now calls for production to rise in a range of 3% to 4% from continuing operations, excluding Libyan production. That increase is one point higher on both ends than Conoco’s prior outlook.

For the fourth quarter, Conoco forecasts production of 1.59 million to 1.63 million barrels of oil equivalent per day.

CEO Ryan Lance said:

We are accelerating actions to position our company for low and volatile prices, while improving the underlying performance of the business. We are on track to deliver seven major project startups and exceed our volume targets for the year. We are exercising flexibility in our capital program, dramatically lowering our cost structure and divesting assets that do not compete for funding in our portfolio. These steps will make us more flexible and resilient for the future. We remain committed to a compelling dividend, affordable growth and strong financial performance.

Conoco boosted its dividend in July from $0.73 per quarter to $0.74 and now boasts a dividend yield of 5.59%. The cuts in capex and operating costs that Conoco have unveiled serve to protect that dividend, at least for the next couple of quarters. With that issue behind it, the company said it plans to release its capital and operating plans in early December.

Conoco’s shares traded down about 2.3% in Thursday’s premarket, at $52.10 in a 52-week range of $41.10 to $74.68. Thomson Reuters had a consensus analyst price target of $62.23 before this latest report.

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