Higher Prices, More Production, Share Buyback Don’t Add Up for Chevron

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When Chevron Corp. (NYSE: CVX) reported second-quarter results before markets opened Friday, the oil and gas supermajor posted diluted earnings per share (EPS) of $1.78 on total revenues of $42.24 billion. In the same period a year ago, the company reported EPS of $0.77 on total revenues of $34.48 billion. Second-quarter results also compare to the consensus estimates for $2.09 in EPS and $45.59 billion in revenues.

Net income for the quarter totaled $3.41 billion, compared to net earnings of $1.45 billion in the year-ago quarter. Upstream earnings jumped to $3.3 billion, while downstream earnings fell by 30% to $838 million. Higher realized prices, lower impairment charges and increased production boosted upstream earnings while downstream earnings were lower due to lower margins on sales in the company’s international division.

The U.S. upstream segment posted earnings of $838 million, compared with a net loss of $102 million in the year-ago quarter. International upstream posted a profit of $2.46 billion, compared with a profit of $944 million last year.

Net oil-equivalent production in the first quarter totaled 2.83 million barrels a day, up by about 46,000 compared with the year-ago quarter. Net oil-equivalent production in the United States totaled 739,000 barrels a day, up by 38,000 year over year. Average U.S. price realizations per barrel of oil rose from $41.00 a year ago to $59.00.

Internationally, liquids prices rose from $45.00 a barrel a year ago to $68.00 a barrel, and net oil-equivalent production rose by 8,000 barrels a day to 2.09 million.

U.S. natural gas realizations fell from $2.32 per thousand cubic feet to $1.61 while international prices rose from $4.39 to $5.64 per thousand cubic feet.

CEO Michael Wirth said:

Results in 2018 benefited from higher crude oil prices, strong operations and higher production. Our cash flow continues to improve with higher upstream margins and volumes, combined with disciplined spending. This enables us to initiate share repurchases, which are expected to be $3 billion per year based on our current outlook.

The earnings announcement did not include guidance, but consensus estimates for the third quarter of 2018 call for earnings per share of $2.22 on revenues of $45.65 billion. For the full year, earnings per share and revenues are estimated at $8.20 and $173.75 billion, respectively.

The $3 billion share buyback was not enough to overcome misses on both profit and revenue estimates. Buybacks have tended to be scarce and relatively modest among the giant oil companies, but Chevron’s move may finally indicate that more money is going to be returned to investors than hoarded and used to fund capital spending.

Chevron’s shares traded up about 0.5% Friday morning, at $122.04 in a 52-week range of $102.55 to $133.88. The consensus 12-month price target was $146.79 before this morning’s report.