The first quarter earnings report from Chevron Corporation (NYSE: CVX ) again highlights the lack of production growth from the majors. The oil major continues to obtain the majority of its profits from projects around the globe while domestic energy production soars.
The results are similar to those produced by ExxonMobil Corporation (NYSE: XOM ) , which sits virtually in the middle of the energy explosion in Texas but has widely missed out. Both companies' shares remain cheap at around 11 times forward earnings; this is especially cheap in a market that a lot of analysts consider expensive.
The interesting part is that smaller producers like Continental Resources (NYSE: CLR ) have turned a focus on one domestic shale basin into a powerhouse to match the domestic production of these energy majors.
Declining domestic production
For the first quarter, Chevron generated roughly 25% of its profits from the domestic upstream operations. The company saw growth from the Marcellus shale and Delaware Basin regions, but overall domestic production declined to 640,000 boe/d. The numbers were down 24,000 boe/d, or 4%, from a year earlier. Liquids production declined 4% in the first quarter, while natural gas production decreased 3%.
ExxonMobil didn't fare much better, with domestic natural gas production declining by 5.2% while oil production increased slightly. The company generated higher domestic profits due to higher realizations of natural gas and a larger focus on that energy source than Chevron.
When the domestic results of the oil majors are viewed within the prism of companies like Continental, the lack of growth is utterly shocking. As a prime example, Continental Resources continues to generate annual production growth in the 30% range and expects to reach domestic production of nearly 300,000 boe/d by 2017.
For investors that can hold on for the long term, Chevron has numerous projects forecasted to drive production growth 20% by 2017. With the company producing 2.59 million boe/d in the first quarter, the production growth amounts to over 500,000 boe/d. Chevron has numerous long-term development projects that should start up in that time period, including the massive Gorgon and Wheatstone LNG projects in Australia. In fact, the company continues to list the majority of the project development outside the U.S. At the same time, Chevron listed several major chemical projects in the Gulf Coast reaching major milestones that are expected to utilize the suddenly abundant natural gas in the U.S. -- ironically, the gas produced by independent energy producers.
Chevron's stock remains cheap, trading at only 11 times earnings while providing investors with a 3.4% dividend. The company shouldn't be confused with a growth stock considering that its forecasted production growth by 2017 amounts to less than 5% annualized growth. Regardless, the company is cheaper than competitor ExxonMobil which trades at 13 times forward earnings and only offers a 2.7% dividend.
For investors wanting higher growth, Continental Resources trades at a reasonable 16 times forward earnings with an expected growth in excess of that multiple. In general, the sector is cheap and investors must chose which stock meets their risk tolerance.
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