Exxon Outlines Aggressive Plan to Double Earnings, Cash Flow

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Darren Woods, CEO of Exxon Mobil Corp. (NYSE: XOM), the world’s largest publicly traded oil producer, told attendees at the company’s annual analysts’ meeting Tuesday morning that the company plans to double its earnings and cash flow by 2025 without relying on crude prices rising above today’s levels. That’s a pretty big deal.

The company’s plan includes measures to double earnings to $31 billion by 2025 at current oil prices. The plan does not include the positive impact of recent changes to U.S. tax law.

Woods said:

We’ve got the best portfolio of high-quality, high-return investment opportunities that we’ve seen in two decades. Our plan takes full advantage of the company’s unique strengths and financial capabilities, using innovation, technology and integration to drive long-term shareholder value and industry-leading returns.

Exxon plans to raise crude production in the Permian Basin by a factor of five and to initiate 25 projects worldwide. The company expects these projects to add more than a million oil-equivalent barrels to current production volumes. Exxon added 10 billion oil-equivalent barrels to its resource base (not its proved reserves) last year.

Downstream (refining and marketing) earnings are projected to double by 2025 by planned upgrades to Exxon’s product slate through strategic investments at refineries in Baytown and Beaumont in Texas and Baton Rouge, Louisiana, Rotterdam, Antwerp, Singapore, and Fawley in the United Kingdom. The company expects downstream margins to rise by 20% by 2025.

The company’s chemical business capacity is expected to rise by 40% through the addition of 13 new facilities. Exxon sees rising demand from Asia for its chemical products.

Woods did not specify the level of investment that will be needed to reach these goals, but it is surely not insignificant. An expected stock buyback program was not mentioned and combined with the cost of the company’s ambitious plan, that led to a bit of a sell-off in Wednesday’s premarket.

The aggressiveness of Exxon’s plan may be fueled, in part, by forecasts for widespread adoption of electric vehicles beginning around 2030. While demand for oil from emerging economies is likely to remain strong, Exxon does not want to get caught will millions of barrels in the ground when demand growth slows. Better to invest now on projects that take years to complete rather than wait for higher prices that may never come.

The company’s stock opened at about $75 Wednesday, after closing at $76.18 the day before. The 52-week trading range is $73.90 to $89.30, and the 12-month consensus price target on the stock is $87.19.