U.S. Markets closed

Exxon touts growth potential with eye toward dividend

The logo of Exxon Mobil Corporation is shown on a monitor above the floor of the New York Stock Exchange in New York, December 30, 2015. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson/File Photo

By Ernest Scheyder

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Exxon Mobil Corp (XOM.N), the world's largest publicly traded oil producer, sought to reassure anxious investors on Wednesday about its growth potential, highlighting both short- and long-term projects executives said should continue to help fund the 106-year-old dividend.

"Our job is to compete and succeed in any market," new Chief Executive Officer Darren Woods said at the company's annual analyst day in New York.

Woods sought to assuage Wall Street concerns that Exxon has lagged Chevron Corp (CVX.N) and other peers in its ability to replace the oil and gas reserves it needs for future profitability.

It was a tough task, with analysts critical of the company's ability to sustain growth. Of 25 Wall Street analysts tracking Exxon, only five recommend buying its shares, less than a third of the 17 who advise buying Chevron's shares, according to Thomson Reuters data.

"Darren Woods did an effective job in laying out the story, but he was hamstrung by his predecessor's mistakes and the market's increasingly skeptical sentiment on the stock," Raymond James analyst Pavel Molchanov said.

Woods, who was meeting analysts for the first time since predecessor Rex Tillerson left in January to become U.S. secretary of state, sought to show Wall Street that the company's investment potential was positive.

Shares of Exxon rose 2 percent on Wednesday in line with the broader market, despite a drop in oil prices (CLc1).

Exxon touted short-term projects in North Dakota and Texas, while pointing to larger endeavors in Russia, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Angola and Canada slated to come online later this year.

Combined, all growth projects should boost the company's production to between 4 million and 4.4 million barrels of oil equivalent per day by 2020, Exxon said.

Exxon pumped 4.1 million barrels of oil equivalent per day in 2016.

Exxon and other oil majors have been slow to recover from a two-year price war with OPEC members that has eroded profitability. Exxon does not hedge its oil production, so it is particularly sensitive to price swings.

Last year, for the second year in a row, Texas-based Exxon failed to replace 100 percent of its oil and gas reserves with new projects.

The company repeated its January spending outlook, in which it said it would spend $22 billion this year, up about 16 percent from 2016.

Woods said that spending should increase to about $25 billion by the end of the decade.

"We are confident in our ability to create significant shareholder value over the long-term," he said.


Woods, who previously ran Exxon's refining unit, defended the company's integrated business model, which twins oil exploration and production with refining. Refining profits typically rise when oil prices fall, which has helped lift Exxon's results in the past year.

While some investors have pushed oil companies to spin off refining units to boost shareholder returns, Woods said Exxon's profitability would suffer should that occur.

(Reporting by Ernest Scheyder; Editing by David Gregorio)