US oil company Chevron slumped to its third straight quarterly loss, disappointing Wall Street and underlining the damage inflicted on even the industry’s biggest groups by the price crash.
The second-biggest US oil company reported a loss of $665m in the final quarter of last year, compared with a loss of $207m in the third quarter. The loss per share was $0.33, compared with analysts’ expectations of a $0.07 per share gain.
“2020 was a year like no other,” said Mike Wirth, Chevron’s chief executive. He added that the company ended the year “with a strong balance sheet, having completed a major acquisition and increased our dividend payout for the 33rd consecutive year”.
Adjusted for currency effects and charges relating to its acquisition of Noble Energy, which closed last quarter, Chevron said its loss was $11m, or $0.01 per diluted share.
Like rivals, Chevron has had to grapple with a year marked by a global oil price war and collapse in crude demand that at one point drove benchmark US prices below zero. The group’s full-year loss was $5.5bn, compared with a profit of $2.9bn in 2019.
Revenue of $94.7bn in 2020 marked Chevron’s second worst year this century. Despite the sharp decline in revenues, the company held its quarterly dividend steady at $1.29.
Mr Wirth pointed to cost savings during the year, with capital expenditure falling to $13.5bn from $21bn in 2019.
In December, Chevron reduced planned capital expenditure to $14bn this year and set an annual cap of $22bn through to 2025. It has also scaled back its projections for near-term production growth, including in the prolific Permian shale of the US.
As the first oil major to report its earnings this year, Chevron’s numbers will be closely watched for signs of the industry’s health. The big three oilfield services companies, often a bellwether for the global oil sector, all pointed to a slow but steady recovery when they reported their earnings this month.
Chevron said fourth-quarter production was flat at 2.08m barrels of oil equivalent a day, compared with the fourth quarter of 2019, with new production from the Noble Energy acquisition offsetting curtailments elsewhere.
The company’s $13bn acquisition of Noble — the first big move in a wave of mergers that swept through the battered US oil sector last year — closed in the fourth quarter. In pre-market trading the company’s shares fell almost 2 per cent on the earnings miss.