ConocoPhillips Keeps Improving

Since sharply cutting its dividend a year ago, ConocoPhillips has made steady improvements to shore up its balance sheet. The most recent quarterly results show the company has made significant strides in 2017.

ConocoPhillips is the world’s largest publicly traded pure exploration and production (E&P) company. As a bellwether for the oil industry, I always pay close attention to the company’s quarterly results for insight into the health of the industry.

For the 3rd quarter of 2017, ConocoPhillips reported earnings of $0.4 billion, compared with a third-quarter 2016 loss of $1.0 billion. The company generated $1.1 billion in cash from operations (CFO) and another $3.0 billion in asset sales, which was used to reduce debt, buy back shares, and fund capital expenditures.

During the quarter, the company spent $2.5 billion to reduce debt, $1.1 billion in capital expenditures and investments, $1.0 billion in buying back shares and $324 million to pay dividends.

The $1.0 billion share buyback during the quarter reduced the share count by 2% (following a 2% reduction in Q2 as well), and the company announced it is on track to buy back a total of $3 billion in shares in 2017.

With the $2.5 billion in debt reduction, the company ended the quarter with total debt of $21 billion, a decline of more than $6 billion since the beginning of the year. This reduction has lowered interest expenses by more than $60 million per quarter since year-end 2016. ConocoPhillips said it expects to end the year with debt below $20 billion.

The company began the quarter with $10.3 billion in cash, primarily a result of the sale of its Canadian oil sands properties earlier in the year. The one knock on Q3 results was that for the first time in more than a year, quarterly CFO wasn’t enough to cover capital expenditures and the dividend. So cash on hand declined during the quarter to $9.6 billion.

Excluding Libya and disposed of assets, production for the quarter came in at 1.2 million barrels of oil equivalent (BOE) per day, up 1.4% year-over-year (YOY). But because of share buybacks and debt reduction, production on a debt-adjusted share basis was up 19% YOY.

Prices for Brent crude (international benchmark), West Texas Intermediate (U.S. benchmark), and Henry Hub natural gas (U.S. benchmark) all improved significantly YOY. Averaged across all oil and gas production, YOY realized prices increased from $29.78/BOE a year ago to $39.49/BOE.

ConocoPhillips guided toward lower capital expenditures of 10% to $4.5 billion for the full year but said it should meet its previous production guidance despite some impact from Hurricane Harvey.

ConocoPhillips’ shares have moved up with oil prices in recent weeks, rising by more than 20% since August 22nd. Oil prices have risen further since the end of Q3, so ConocoPhillips is off to a good start in Q4.

Note: In the interest of full disclosure, I formerly worked for ConocoPhillips, on both the upstream side and on the downstream side that eventually became Phillips 66 — and my retirement plan holds shares in both companies.

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2 thoughts on “ConocoPhillips Keeps Improving”

  1. Hi Robert – I still come by and read your articles, but don’t usually comment.

    I read your Forbes article about Waymo’s cars testing in your town. I’m also intensely interested in them, and was curious why you didn’t sign up for their early rider program. Were you disqualified as a member of the press? Do you know anyone who did sign up?

    Final question. Waymo bought 100 Chrysler Pacificas back in 2016, then ordered 500 more this past April. But Chrysler had trouble with an inverter or something, recalled their initial production and stopped making more for a couple months. What’s your best guess as to how many are actually on the streets today?


    1. I did sign up late last week. No word yet. I explained that I write about energy, so they might be hesitant to let me see things up close and personal.

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