Dividend Cut Risk Of The 6 Oil Super Majors by Ben Reynolds, Sure Dividend
Oil prices have collapsed from highs of ~$120 per barrel to lows of ~$30 per barrel.
Tumbling oil prices have caused real problems for the oil industry. Marginal oil companies are facing solvency issues and are having to slash dividends.
But what about the kings of the oil and gas industry – the 6 super major oil and gas corporations – are they also likely to cut their dividend payments?
The 6 oil super majors are listed below:
- BP (BP)
- Eni SpA (E)
- Total SA (TOT)
- Chevron (CVX)
- ExxonMobil (XOM)
- Royal Dutch Shell (RDS-B)
Of the 6, ExxonMobil is the largest. The image below shows the respective market caps of all 6 super majors to get an idea of their relative sizes.
The super majors all have enviable dividend yields – especially when compared to the S&P 500’s current dividend yield of 2.2%.
- BP has a dividend yield of 7.8%
- Eni SpA has a dividend yield of 6.3%
- Total SA has a dividend yield of 6.0%
- Chevron has a dividend yield of 5.0%
- ExxonMobil has a dividend yield of 3.7%
- Royal Dutch Shell has a dividend yield of 7.7%
The lowest yielding super major has a 3.8% dividend yield – a full 1.6 percentage points above the S&P 500’s dividend yield.
The highest yielding super major is Royal Dutch Shell with its 7.8% dividend yield. BP is not far behind with a 7.4% dividend yield. Click here to see 12 quality high dividend stocks analyzed in detail.
If the super majors are able to pay steady or increasing dividends, they are absolute bargains at current prices.
If, on the other hand, they will soon be cutting their respective dividends, then they are nothing more than fool’s black gold.
This article examines the likelihood of a dividend cut as well as the respective investment merits of each of the 6 super majors.
Oil super majors – Chevron
Chevron is the second largest super major, and has the second lowest yield of the 6 at ‘just’ 5.0%.
Chevron is a Dividend Aristocrat (along with ExxonMobil); Chevron has paid increasing dividends for 28 consecutive years. Click here to see a list of all 50 Dividend Aristocrats. The image below shows the company’s dividend history over the last 45 years.
Chevron’s long history of dividend increases shows that the company is committed to paying rising dividends.
The company’s management has been very clear about its commitment to dividends as the image below from the company’s most recent earnings presentation shows:
The will to pay increasing dividends is very important for a management. Without it, the dividend is one of the first capital outlays to be cut when times get tough.
During the financial crisis of 2007 to 2009, oil prices dropped precipitously. The company’s earnings fell by 55%. Despite this, Chevron did not cut its dividend.
In 2015, Chevron saw cash flow from operations decline:
- 2015 cash flow from operations of $19.5 billion
- 2014 cash flow from operations of $31.5 billion
Chevron paid out $8 billion in dividends in fiscal 2015, and ~$30 billion on capital expenditures. To make up the difference in cash flow from operations and capital needs, Chevron divested assets and issued new debt.
Source: Chevron Q4 2015 Presentation, slide 5
Chevron’s total capital needs including all expenses and dividends in 2015 was $69 billion. The company is expecting to need around $60 billion in 2016. Here’s where this money will come from under different oil price scenarios:
- Planned ~$4 billion in asset divestments
- Downstream net revenue of ~$10 billion
- Upstream revenue @ $30 oil prices of $29 billion
- Upstream revenue @ $40 oil prices of $38 billion
- Upstream revenue @ $50 oil prices of $48 billion
- Upstream revenue @ $60 oil prices of $57 billion
If oil prices average $50 or above in 2016, Chevron will not have a cash shortfall.
Cash shortfalls that must be funded by new debt issuances or the company’s cash on hand at different oil price levels are shown below:
- $8 billion shortfall at $40 oil prices
- $17 billion shortfall at $30 oil prices
Chevron currently has around $11 billion in cash on its balance sheet. The company has is carrying $38.5 billion in debt as well. Chevron has an AA credit rating from S&P and an Aa1 rating from Moody’s. Chevron should have little problem issuing new debt at favorable interest rates in 2016 if oil prices remain low.
It is likely that Chevron will have to raise some money through debt issuances in 2016 – probably in the range of $5 billion (expecting around $40 average oil prices for the year and the company not using all its cash reserves).
Chevron has the ability to continue paying its dividend in 2016. The company’s balance sheet and credit rating are still strong. Additionally, the company’s management appears committed to paying steady or increasing dividends. It is very unlikely Chevron has a dividend cut in 2016. With that said, if oil prices stay in their current range for years then Chevron would eventually be unable to pay its dividend.
ExxonMobil is the largest oil corporation in the world based on its market cap. The company is also a Dividend Aristocrat with 33 years of consecutive dividend increases. ExxonMobil and Chevron are the only 2 oil corporations that are also Dividend Aristocrats.
ExxonMobil’s power and influence on a geopolitical scale should not be underestimated. The company’s close ties with both the United States government and international governments combined with its enormous size give it a strong and durable competitive advantage.
Despite steep declines in oil prices, ExxonMobil is still profitable thanks to its diversified operations. The company’s chemical and downstream operations generated $2.3 billion in profits in the company’s most recent quarter. Even with ultra-low oil prices, ExxonMobil’s upstream division generated $0.8 billion in profits in the same quarter. The image below breaks down earnings changes for the company in the fourth quarter of 2015 versus the fourth quarter of 2015:
Source: ExxonMobil Q4 Earnings Presentation, slide 7
In total, ExxonMobil generated $0.67 in earnings-per-share in its most recent quarter versus $0.73 in dividends.
Normally, a payout ratio over 100% would be cause for alarm. That’s not the case with ExxonMobil.
ExxonMobil’s management is committed to paying rising dividends, as evidenced by its 33 year streak of consecutive dividend increases.
In addition, 2 out of ExxonMobil’s 3 segments (downstream and chemical) are generating significant cash flows.
ExxonMobil has $3.7 billion in cash on its balance sheet and $38.7 billion in debt. The company’s balance sheet is in excellent shape. ExxonMobil is 1 of only 3 United States corporations with an AAA rating from S&P. The other 2 are Microsoft (MSFT) and Johnson & Johnson (JNJ). An AAA rating is higher