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Chevron Rides High Oil Prices to Record $35.5 Billion Annual Profit

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Chevron Corp.

CVX 4.86%

banked historic profit last year as the pandemic receded and the war in Ukraine pushed oil prices to multiyear highs, with its shares climbing 53% while other sectors tumbled.

The U.S. oil company in its quarterly earnings reported Friday that it collected $35.5 billion in its highest-ever annual profit in 2022, more than double the prior year and about one-third higher than its previous record in 2011. Almost $50 billion in cash streamed in from its oil-leveraged operations, another record underpinning plans to pay investors through a new $75 billion share-repurchase program over the next several years. 

That payout, announced Wednesday, is roughly equivalent to the stock-market value of the big-box retailer

Target Corp.

, the pharmaceutical firm

Moderna Inc.

and

Airbnb Inc.

Chevron, the second-largest U.S. oil company after

Exxon Mobil Corp.

, posted revenue of $246.3 billion, up from $162.5 billion the previous year. The San Ramon, Calif., company reported a fourth-quarter profit of $6.4 billion, up from $5.1 billion in the same period the prior year. 

For all of its recent winnings, though, Chevron and its rival oil-and-gas producers could face a rockier year in 2023, according to investors and analysts, if an anticipated slowdown in U.S. economic growth dents demand for oil, and if China’s reopening from strict Covid-19 restrictions unfolds slowly. 

U.S. oil prices have held steady this year, but are off about 34% from last year’s peak. The industry is proceeding with caution, holding capital expenditures for 2023 below prepandemic levels and saying production will grow only modestly. Chevron has said it plans to spend about $17 billion in capital expenditures this year, up more than 25% from the prior year, but $3 billion less than it planned to spend in 2020 before Covid-19 took root.

Oil companies are still outperforming other sectors such as tech and finance, which have seen widespread job cuts in recent weeks. The energy segment of the S&P 500 index has climbed about 44% over the past year, compared with a 6.2% drop for the broader index.

“We are well-positioned to lead in both traditional and new-energy businesses, while delivering higher returns, lower carbon and superior shareholder value,” Chevron Chief Executive

Mike Wirth

said, while also noting the company whittled down its debt by about 26% over the year.

Chevron hit a record in U.S. oil-and-gas production in 2022, increasing 4% to about 1.2 million barrels of oil equivalent a day, stemming from its increased focus on capital investments in the Western Hemisphere, particularly in the Permian Basin of West Texas and New Mexico, where it boosted output 16% last year. Worldwide, Chevron’s oil-and-gas production was down 3.2% compared with the prior year, at 2.99 million barrels of oil-equivalent a day.

Its overall return on capital employed came in at 20%, it said.

“There aren’t many sectors generating the type of free cash flow that energy is right now,” said

Jeff Wyll,

an analyst at investment firm Neuberger Berman, which has invested in Chevron. “The sector really can’t be ignored. Given the supply-demand balance, you have to have some things go wrong here to see a pullback in oil prices.”

Even so, institutional investors have shown limited interest so far in returning to the energy sector, after years of poor returns and heightened concerns about their environmental impact prompted large financiers to sell off their stakes in oil-and-gas companies or stop investing in drillers outright.

Chevron and others have faced criticism from the Biden administration and others for giving priority to shareholder returns over pumping oil and gas at a time when global supplies are tight and Americans are feeling pain at the pump. On Thursday, the White House assailed Chevron’s $75 billion buyout program, saying the payout was proof the company could boost production but was choosing to reward investors instead.

Pierre Breber,

Chevron’s finance chief, said that the company expects oil prices to be volatile but that they will remain within a range the company needs to sustain its dividend and investments. There are some optimistic signs, he added, including that the U.S. economy grew faster than expected in the fourth quarter, at 2.9%.

“Supply is tight. Oil-field services are near capacity, and we continue to have sanctions on Russian production,” Mr. Breber said. “You’re seeing international flights out of China are way up, and low unemployment in the U.S.”

Mr. Breber said Chevron’s output in the Permian this year is expected to grow at a slower pace, around 10%, because it has exhausted much of its inventory of wells that it had drilled but hadn’t brought into production.

Exxon,

which has typically posted quarterly earnings on the same day as Chevron, will report Tuesday. Analysts expect it will also post record profit for 2022, according to FactSet.

Write to Collin Eaton at [email protected]

Copyright ©2022 Dow Jones & Company, Inc. All Rights Reserved. 87990cbe856818d5eddac44c7b1cdeb8



Chevron Corp.

CVX 4.86%

banked historic profit last year as the pandemic receded and the war in Ukraine pushed oil prices to multiyear highs, with its shares climbing 53% while other sectors tumbled.

The U.S. oil company in its quarterly earnings reported Friday that it collected $35.5 billion in its highest-ever annual profit in 2022, more than double the prior year and about one-third higher than its previous record in 2011. Almost $50 billion in cash streamed in from its oil-leveraged operations, another record underpinning plans to pay investors through a new $75 billion share-repurchase program over the next several years. 

That payout, announced Wednesday, is roughly equivalent to the stock-market value of the big-box retailer

Target Corp.

, the pharmaceutical firm

Moderna Inc.

and

Airbnb Inc.

Chevron, the second-largest U.S. oil company after

Exxon Mobil Corp.

, posted revenue of $246.3 billion, up from $162.5 billion the previous year. The San Ramon, Calif., company reported a fourth-quarter profit of $6.4 billion, up from $5.1 billion in the same period the prior year. 

For all of its recent winnings, though, Chevron and its rival oil-and-gas producers could face a rockier year in 2023, according to investors and analysts, if an anticipated slowdown in U.S. economic growth dents demand for oil, and if China’s reopening from strict Covid-19 restrictions unfolds slowly. 

U.S. oil prices have held steady this year, but are off about 34% from last year’s peak. The industry is proceeding with caution, holding capital expenditures for 2023 below prepandemic levels and saying production will grow only modestly. Chevron has said it plans to spend about $17 billion in capital expenditures this year, up more than 25% from the prior year, but $3 billion less than it planned to spend in 2020 before Covid-19 took root.

Oil companies are still outperforming other sectors such as tech and finance, which have seen widespread job cuts in recent weeks. The energy segment of the S&P 500 index has climbed about 44% over the past year, compared with a 6.2% drop for the broader index.

“We are well-positioned to lead in both traditional and new-energy businesses, while delivering higher returns, lower carbon and superior shareholder value,” Chevron Chief Executive

Mike Wirth

said, while also noting the company whittled down its debt by about 26% over the year.

Chevron hit a record in U.S. oil-and-gas production in 2022, increasing 4% to about 1.2 million barrels of oil equivalent a day, stemming from its increased focus on capital investments in the Western Hemisphere, particularly in the Permian Basin of West Texas and New Mexico, where it boosted output 16% last year. Worldwide, Chevron’s oil-and-gas production was down 3.2% compared with the prior year, at 2.99 million barrels of oil-equivalent a day.

Its overall return on capital employed came in at 20%, it said.

“There aren’t many sectors generating the type of free cash flow that energy is right now,” said

Jeff Wyll,

an analyst at investment firm Neuberger Berman, which has invested in Chevron. “The sector really can’t be ignored. Given the supply-demand balance, you have to have some things go wrong here to see a pullback in oil prices.”

Even so, institutional investors have shown limited interest so far in returning to the energy sector, after years of poor returns and heightened concerns about their environmental impact prompted large financiers to sell off their stakes in oil-and-gas companies or stop investing in drillers outright.

Chevron and others have faced criticism from the Biden administration and others for giving priority to shareholder returns over pumping oil and gas at a time when global supplies are tight and Americans are feeling pain at the pump. On Thursday, the White House assailed Chevron’s $75 billion buyout program, saying the payout was proof the company could boost production but was choosing to reward investors instead.

Pierre Breber,

Chevron’s finance chief, said that the company expects oil prices to be volatile but that they will remain within a range the company needs to sustain its dividend and investments. There are some optimistic signs, he added, including that the U.S. economy grew faster than expected in the fourth quarter, at 2.9%.

“Supply is tight. Oil-field services are near capacity, and we continue to have sanctions on Russian production,” Mr. Breber said. “You’re seeing international flights out of China are way up, and low unemployment in the U.S.”

Mr. Breber said Chevron’s output in the Permian this year is expected to grow at a slower pace, around 10%, because it has exhausted much of its inventory of wells that it had drilled but hadn’t brought into production.

Exxon,

which has typically posted quarterly earnings on the same day as Chevron, will report Tuesday. Analysts expect it will also post record profit for 2022, according to FactSet.

Write to Collin Eaton at [email protected]

Copyright ©2022 Dow Jones & Company, Inc. All Rights Reserved. 87990cbe856818d5eddac44c7b1cdeb8

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