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Occidental Takes $1.4 Billion Writedown, Cuts Budget on Oil Rout

Kevin Crowley
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Occidental Takes $1.4 Billion Writedown, Cuts Budget on Oil Rout

(Bloomberg) -- Occidental Petroleum Corp. took a $1.4 billion writedown related to an investment in a pipeline affiliate, cut capital spending and withdrew its guidance for the year after a historic collapse in oil prices.

Occidental’s first-quarter loss included impairment charges related to its equity investment in Western Midstream Partners LP, the Houston-based company said in a statement Tuesday. The shale producer is reducing its budget for this year to between $2.4 billion and $2.6 billion, a drop of more than 50% from its initial plan. Shares rose 4.4% to $16 in after-market trading in New York, while Western Midstream was little changed.

Occidental is more exposed than most of its rivals to the crash in crude markets after quadrupling its debt load to help finance last year’s $37 billion acquisition of Anadarko Petroleum Corp. Although Chief Executive Officer Vicki Hollub has so far survived an activist intervention by billionaire Carl Icahn, she’s now faced with a mountain of borrowings that start to come due next year.

Hollub has slashed capital spending, cut salaries and reduced dividends since the oil-price plunge began two months ago. Western Midstream is among the crown jewel assets that Occidental has sought to sell to reduce leverage.

Hollub’s strategy took another hit as Algeria opted to block the sale of assets acquired in the Anadarko deal to Total SA. The sale, along with another in Ghana, was expected to raise somewhere in the range of $5 billion.

Occidental recently hired boutique investment bank Moelis & Co. to help examine ways to reduce its debt load, Dow Jones reported, citing unnamed sources. The bank is expected to work with an advisory committee of the board of directors, Dow Jones reported.

READ: Major Occidental Oil Asset Sale Blocked by Algeria, Total Says

Occidental had a $670 million first-quarter loss on interest rate swaps and $580 million in charges related to international oil and gas properties. The company said the charges were partially offset by $1 billion of gains on crude oil hedges.

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