It appears that we now have two of the country's best-known investment professionals at least in general agreement on a member of Big Oil.
You probably recall that about a year ago at this time, Warren Buffett was buying ConocoPhillips (NYSE: COP ) hand over fist with Berkshire Hathaway (NYSE: BRK-A ) (NYSE: BRK-B ) becoming the Houston-based company's largest shareholder.
Since that time, Buffett and his team have been shedding Conoco shares to harvest tax losses, and he calls buying the company when he did a “major mistake.” On Wednesday, CNBC personality Jim Cramer called Conoco "the worst of the integrateds." So it appears that Buffett and Cramer have achieved something of a meeting of the minds.
If there were any doubts about Conoco, they were done away with Wednesday, when the company told us about its latest quarterly results. Whereas BP (NYSE: BP ) had announced a 53% decline in its income the day before, ConocoPhillips' slide was 76%.
Clearly, the company has had to deal with the roller-coaster ride of pricing that crude and natural gas have presented during the past 18 months -- along with myriad other challenges. As a result, its upstream side earned $725 million in the quarter, compared to $4 billion in the same quarter a year ago. But giving credit where it's due, with new production coming on in Russia, Canada, Norway, China, Vietnam, and the U.K., daily output was nearly 7% higher in the quarter than a year ago.
On the downstream (refining and marketing) side, Conoco recorded a loss of $52 million, versus income of $664 million a year ago. The difference was largely the result of skimpy refining margins, an international plant utilization that averaged 72%, down from last year's 88%, and a $72 million non-cash impairment charge in the quarter.
So that's two down, with ExxonMobil (NYSE: XOM ) up next and then Chevron (NYSE: CVX ) and France's Total (NYSE: TOT ) on Friday. All will surely be affected by the maladies that hit BP and Conoco. And with crude and natural gas prices seemingly trading in a range for a while, if you're of a mind to tie into any of the majors, be sure you have a lengthy investment time horizon.
For related Foolishness:
- More Reasons to Love Your Rich Uncle Exxon
- Chevron Keeps It in the Ballpark
- Oil Sands Are Shifting for Total