Exxon Mobil Corp. is slashing spending to a four-year low and delaying major projects as the oil titan reverses course on a massive investment drive to keep its financial footing during the worst oil-price rout in decades.
Exxon will reduce this year’s spending by 30 percent to $23 billion, the Irving, Texas-based company said in a statement on Tuesday. It will be the second-largest budget cut in the company’s modern history, overshadowed only by 2016, when crude markets last collapsed.
The largest share of the reductions will occur in the Permian Basin of West Texas and New Mexico, where Exxon will cut back on drilling and fracking, according to the statement. The company also is delaying a formal investment decision on a massive liquefied natural gas project in Mozambique and some work on oil discoveries off the coast of Guyana.
The scope of the cuts exceeded the expectations of some analysts including those at Goldman Sachs Group Inc. who forecast a reduction to $29 billion. Refining and chemical expansions also may be slowed, Exxon said without providing specifics.
Although every oil explorer is grappling with how to manage the price collapse, the pullback is particularly painful for Exxon Chief Executive Officer Darren Woods because he so recently staked the future on investing heavily through the downturn. But the plunge in crude prices has been so severe that even a financial powerhouse like Exxon is feeling the pinch.
Exxon is in a “capital intensive commodity business that’s used to ups and downs in price cycles, however I have to say we haven’t seen anything like what we’re experiencing today,” Woods said during a conference call after the cuts were disclosed. “These are definitely challenging times for all of us.”
Supermajors Royal Dutch Shell Plc, Chevron Corp. and Total SA halted share buybacks to preserve dividend programs. Exxon sacrificed buybacks in 2016 during the last market crash and has instead funneled all excess cash toward dividends and new projects.
Just days before the rout kicked off, Woods emphasized “really leaning into this market when others have pulled back.” With a large increase in borrowing, investors were already skeptical but the most recent downturn in crude prices has put even more focus on how willing Exxon is to hike its debt load.
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