ExxonMobil vs. Chevron: Which Should You Pick for Income and Growth?

Exxon and Chevron are two oil behemoths with two different growth strategies, but which is the better play for investors looking for both income and growth?

Apr 20, 2014 at 10:50AM

ExxonMobil (NYSE:XOM) and Chevron (NYSE:CVX) are the two largest publicly traded integrated oil and gas companies in the world, and each has many attractive qualities. If you had to pick one as an investment, though, which would be the better choice for both income and growth?

Searching for growth
It's no secret that both Exxon and Chevron struggled to grow during 2013, and this has worried investors. However, both Chevron and Exxon have robust plans for growth in place for the next few years, although both companies are going about things very differently.

Despite being the smaller company, Chevron is planning to spend $3 billion more per annum on oil and gas projects around the world than Exxon through 2017. The reason behind this is simple: While Chevron is chasing growth, Exxon is seeking stability.

For example, on the production front, Exxon produced around 4.2 million barrels of oil per day during 2013. This production is expected to tick up slightly to 4.3 million barrels per day by 2017, a 3% increase.

Meanwhile, Chevron produced 2.6 million barrels of oil per day last year and is targeting production of 3.1 million barrels per day by 2017, a jump of 19%. 

Replacing mature projects
Exxon has more projects coming onstream during 2014 than in any other year in its history. However, these projects are only going to offset declining production from mature fields and the loss of the company's share in an oil concession in Abu Dhabi, which expired in January. It would appear as if the company is struggling to find growth, despite its multi-billion dollar annual capital spending budget. 

Still, Exxon's targets are under threat as the huge Kashagan oil field project struggles to get off the ground. The Kashagan project is is so large that it is taking a consortium of oil majors to develop it, including Exxon, Italy's Eni (NYSE:E), and France's Total (NYSE:TOT).

Kashagan is not just one of the world's largest oil fields, it has turned into one of the most complex and expensive oil projects ever. From an initial cost estimate of $57 billion for the life of the project, the Kashagan development is now expected to cost a staggering $136 billion over its lifetime

Things were progressing to plan, albeit slightly behind schedule and over budget as of last September when the project finally started up. Unfortunately, disaster struck as a gas leak forced production to stop. As of yet, it's not possible to predict when production will restart. 

Production surge
On the other hand, Chevron's production is expected to explode through 2017 thanks to the completion of several huge projects. These projects include, but are not limited to, the Gorgon and Wheatstone liquefied natural gas developments in Australia and the Jack/St Malo, Big Foot, and Tubular Bells deepwater oilfields in the Gulf of Mexico.

What's more, Chevron has plenty of growth planned after 2017 and through to the end of the decade.

After 2017, Chevron has 10 planned projects worth over $1 billion commencing construction/production within North America alone, and a further 13 smaller projects are also under consideration.

Projects within North American slated to start after 2017, include the Kitimat LNG project and the Hebron heavy oil project off the east coast of Canada, estimated to contain 400 million to 700 million barrels of recoverable oil. In addition, Chevron has plans to develop the Mad Dog II and Stampede oil fields in the Gulf of Mexico. 

The income question
Chevron is driving for growth and Exxon is seeking stability. Based on these figures, Chevron is the company for growth investors while Exxon is well placed to provide income investors will a stable, predictable dividend.

Nevertheless, at present levels, Chevron offers the bigger dividend yield of 3.4% compared to Exxon's current yield of 2.6%. However, these figures do not include the return of cash to investors via share buybacks.

Exxon returned $27 billion to investors via both buybacks and dividends during 2013. On a per-share basis, this works out at around $6.10 per share, equivalent to a yield of 6.3%.

On the other hand, Chevron returned $12 billion to investors via both buybacks and dividends during 2013, less than half of the cash returned by Exxon. On a per-share basis, Chevron's cash returns work out at around $6.21 per share, equivalent to a yield of 5.3%.

Foolish summary
All in all, it would appear that Chevron is the best pick for growth and Exxon is the best pick for income and stability. If you're looking for both growth and income, Chevron appears to be the best pick.

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Rupert Hargreaves owns shares of Chevron. The Motley Fool recommends Chevron and Total SA. (ADR). Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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