Chevron Keeps It in the Ballpark

Finally, all the horses are in the barn. As last week came to a close, Chevron (NYSE: CVX  ) became the final member of Big Oil to check in with the results of its March ending quarter. And as you might suspect, with crude prices having plummeted by about two-thirds from nearly a year ago, the company's outcome generally wasn't much better than its brethren.

For the quarter, the second-largest U.S.-based oil company earned $1.84 billion, or $0.92 a share. Those figures compared to $5.7 billion and $2.48 per share a year earlier, when crude was headed for $150 a barrel. For those of you keeping track, the company's slide was 64% on the net income line, or identical to that of BP (NYSE: BP  ) . In fact, for the sake of comparison, ExxonMobil (NYSE: XOM  ) led the group by dropping "only" 58% from its numbers a year ago, while ConocoPhillips (NYSE: COP  ) was the caboose at 80%.

Actually, despite the crude and natural gas price slide, the quarter was not a terrible one for Chevron. The company forged ahead with oil production and refinery runs both higher than a year ago. Total global liquids production was up 8% for the quarter, while refinery runs were up in excess of 3%. The company also benefited from downstream asset sales.

According to CEO Dave O'Reilly, upstream volumes were helped by deepwater startups in Nigeria and the United States, along with an expansion completed during the year at the big Tengiz field in Kazakhstan. And the company isn't through with new oil coming on stream. The 2009 schedule calls for startups in the Gulf of Mexico, Angola, and Brazil.

From a cash perspective, Chevron doled $6.5 billion in the quarter for capital and exploratory expenditures, up from $5.1 billion a year earlier. At quarter's end, the cash kitty totaled $9.15 billion, down somewhat year over year.

So, not a wholly bad quarter, but how should Fools approach Chevron in here? My best response is not to approach it at all. You'll notice that the company's startups this year were in the deep water. As such, and with commodities prices still questionable, I'd stick with the deepwater drilling twins, Transocean (NYSE: RIG  ) and Diamond Offshore (NYSE: DO  ) , along with the biggest of the big, ExxonMobil. The deepwater drillers' equipment is generally contracted for years to come, and I don't believe their customers are likely to go sideways on their commitments.

For related Foolishness:

Fool contributor David Lee Smith doesn't own shares in any of the companies mentioned above. He does, however, welcome your questions or comments. The Fool's disclosure policy is designed to withstand the deepest of the deep.


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