4 Large-Cap Oil Stocks to Buy as Iran Sanctions Start Kicking In

August 8, 2018 by 247lee

Regardless of what you think about President Trump’s foreign policy, one thing is for sure. When he makes up his mind on an issue, he generally goes all in. One issue the president has been very firm on since before the election is doing away with the Iran deal, put into place by former President Obama. With the time having come, all the sanctions on Iran that were relaxed under the Obama-era deal are being reinstated.

With Iranian oil sales being sharply curtailed, and numerous sanctions being imposed on Iran’s energy sector, it’s a good bet that the biggest international oil integrated companies will stand to benefit in a big way in part due to their global exposure.

We screened the Merrill Lynch energy research universe for the largest capitalization stocks that could be big winners as the cuffs go back on Iran. All are rated Buy.

Chevron

This integrated giant is a safer way for investors looking to stay or get long the energy sector, and it has big Permian Basin exposure. Chevron Corp. (NYSE: CVX) is a US-based integrated oil and gas company, with worldwide operations in exploration and production, refining and marketing, transportation and petrochemicals.

The company sports a sizable dividend and has a solid place in the sector when it comes to natural gas and liquefied natural gas (LNG). Some on Wall Street estimate that the company will have a compound annual growth rate of over 5% for the next five years.

With Permian production and asset disposals targets reset, the company can raise the dividend 20% and buyback 15% of shares. Many analysts view the strategy update as appropriately conservative for one of the more oil-levered majors. The Chevron strategy through 2020 is focused on discipline, enabled by step change in capital efficiency driven by doubling Permian production.

Despite missing second-quarter results, Merrill Lynch remains positive:

Chevron missed second quarter earnings headline, but a share buyback resumption and solid operating outlook largely wiped away concerns. We estimate the company generates $30 billion in free-cash-flow 2020. After that, Portfolio oil leverage allows Chevron to grow/expand the dividend and /buyback shares. We suggest $3 billion in buybacks is merely a first stab that underlines broader market caution on the sustainability of oil prices.

Chevron shareholders are paid an outstanding 3.57% dividend. The Merrill Lynch price target for the shares is $150, and the Wall Street consensus target price is $146.92. The stock closed Tuesday’s trading at $125.18 per share.

ConocoPhillips

This one may offer investors solid upside potential and could start growing its dividends again. ConocoPhillips (NYSE: COP) explores for, produces, transports and markets crude oil, bitumen, natural gas, LNG and natural gas liquids (NGLs) worldwide.

Conoco’s portfolio includes resource-rich North American tight oil and oil sands assets; lower-risk legacy assets in North America, Europe, Asia and Australia; various international developments; and an inventory of conventional and unconventional exploration prospects. Many Wall Street analysts feel the company can accelerate growth from a reloaded portfolio depth in the Bakken and Eagle Ford, and with visibility on future growth from a sizable position in the Permian.

The company recently posted better-than-expected quarterly profits, thanks to rising crude prices, prompting executives to boost capital spending and production targets for the year. ConocoPhillips forecast capital spending of $6 billion this year, reflecting growing expenses from a higher U.S. oil price of $65 per barrel. It had initially budgeted $5.5 billion for 2018 capital expenditures and said the additional spending would be on well completions, work with production partners and inflation.

Conoco investors are paid a 1.56% dividend. Merrill Lynch has a price target on the stock of $80. The posted consensus target was last seen at $80.15. The shares closed trading on Tuesday at $73.90 apiece.

Exxon Mobil

This remains a top Wall Street energy pick and is on the US 1 list at Merrill Lynch. Exxon Mobil Corp. (NYSE: XOM) is the world’s largest international integrated oil and gas company. It explores for and produces crude oil and natural gas in the United States, Canada, South America, Europe, Africa and elsewhere.

The company also manufactures and markets commodity petrochemicals, including olefins, aromatics, polyethylene and polypropylene plastics, and specialty products, and it transports and sells crude oil, natural gas and petroleum products.

Exxon also reported quarterly profits that fell short of analysts’ expectations, marking the fourth time in the past five periods the company has disappointed. The miss was largely due to weaker earnings in Exxon’s refining and marketing segment due to heavier-than-anticipated maintenance and operational problems. Exxon’s business producing oil and gas bolstered earnings, with the company saying it is favoring oil output over gas drilling in its U.S. shale fields.

Also, the company recently raised its dividend by a nickel per share to $0.82 per share. That now translates to a solid 3.98% dividend.

The $110 Merrill Lynch price objective is well above the consensus target price of $88.88. The shares ended trading on Tuesday at $81.27.

Royal Dutch Shell

This company has survived the seesaw in oil pricing as good as or better than any other major integrated. Royal Dutch Shell PLC (NYSE: RDS-A) operates as an independent oil and gas company worldwide through its Upstream and Downstream segments. The company explores for and extracts crude oil, natural gas and NGLs.

Royal Dutch Shell also converts natural gas to liquids to provide fuels and other products; markets and trades crude oil and natural gas; transports oil; liquefies and transports gas; extracts bitumen from mined oil sands and converts it to synthetic crude oil; and generates electricity from wind energy.

In addition, the company engages in the conversion of crude oil into a range of refined products, including gasoline, diesel, heating oil, aviation fuel, marine fuel, LNG for transport, lubricants, bitumen and sulphur; production and sale of petrochemicals for industrial customers; refining; trading and supply; pipelines and marketing; and alternative energy businesses.

The company just announced the start of a $25 billion stock buyback program, and while second-quarter earnings were somewhat weak, free cash flow at the integrated giant remains strong.

Investors are paid a huge 4.76% dividend. Merrill Lynch has set its price objective at $78. The posted consensus price target is $81.01, and the stock closed Tuesday at $66.90 a share.

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With oil hovering at the $70 a barrel level, you can bet that the big integrated companies are looking to produce and sell as much as possible, especially while the sanctions on Iran remain in place. These stocks are outstanding long-term buys for growth portfolios looking for income as well.