As usual, the scribes began with ConocoPhillips'
But to satisfy those for whom financial metrics are all-important, the nation's third-largest integrated oil and gas company, behind ExxonMobil
At the same time, Conoco's exploration and production climbed more than 5% year over year. Year-to-date total production, including its portion from LUKOIL -- the Russian company in which Conoco holds a 20% interest -- was 2.2 million barrels of oil equivalent per day.
As CEO Jim Mulva noted, however, "Although we operated well, we were adversely affected by low North American natural gas prices and worldwide refining margins." As a result, the company curtailed gas production and lowered its refinery runs. "Operating well" obviously includes Conoco's participation with BP
Perhaps most important for the company was that it confirmed that it will divest about $10 billion in assets during the next couple of years and lower its capital spending by 12% to $11 billion in 2010. About 90% of the capital spending will be directed to exploration and production.
Mulva also said the company could legitimately be charged with "shrinking to grow." And as to specific properties that may be on the block, Mulva was noncommittal. While many had assumed that they would include its LUKOIL stake, he denied that was the case and pointed to some nonspecific exploration and production operations, along with some North American pipelines and terminals and selected southern North Sea properties.
Also for sale is Conoco's Syncrude oil sands interest. The project is located in Canada, and Murphy Oil
The coming changes for ConocoPhillips will be intriguing. In the meantime, my inclination is to stop at observing the company. There appear to be better buys in, for instance, BP.