The price of a barrel of crude recently slipped below $50 for the first time in more than a year as the bear market wipeout continued. That plunge has hit oil stocks hard, especially financially weaker producers that had been banking on higher oil prices to help get them back on solid ground.
However, while the slump in crude prices will impact the entire industry, some oil stocks are in a better position to weather the market's recent storm. That's because they spent the past few years preparing their businesses to run on lower oil prices. Here are five oil stocks that won't need to make any changes to their plans now that crude is below $50 a barrel.
Fast-paced growth at $50 oil
EOG Resources (NYSE:EOG) spent the past few years combing through its drilling inventory to identify those locations that can earn it a premium return at lower oil prices, which it defines as 30% at $40 a barrel. By setting such a high hurdle rate, the company can excel at lower oil prices, since it will be able to grow its U.S. oil production at a more than 15% annual rate and pay its current dividend while generating some free cash flow at $50 a barrel. Adding to EOG Resources' ability to thrive at lower oil prices is its strong balance sheet, which ended the third quarter with $1.2 billion in cash, giving it a nice cushion to weather any more storms in the oil market.
Reset to run on $40 oil
Occidental Petroleum (NYSE:OXY) recently completed its low oil price breakeven plan. Because of that, the company can now maintain its current production rate as well as its high-yielding dividend on the cash flows it can produce at $40 oil and expand its output at a 5% to 8% annual pace on $50 oil. Meanwhile, thanks to higher oil prices earlier in the year and some recent asset sales, Occidental Petroleum ended the third quarter with $3 billion in cash. That not only gives it a nice cushion should crude continue to fall but the funds to repurchase stock, with its aim being to buy back $2 billion in shares by the end of next year.
Set for $50 a barrel in 2019
Anadarko Petroleum (NYSE:APC) recently released its 2019 budget. The key feature is that the oil giant anticipates that it can grow its oil production by 10% next year using the cash flows generated at $50 oil. In addition to allocating cash toward expanding output, Anadarko also plans to return more money to investors in the coming year through a 20% dividend increase and $1 billion boost to its share repurchase program while also retiring another $500 million in debt. The company can fully finance those activities with cash given that it had $1.9 billion on its balance sheet at the end of the third quarter and expected to receive another $2 billion early next year when it closes the sale of its midstream assets.
Sustainable below $40 and thriving at $50
ConocoPhillips (NYSE:COP) outlined its three-year plan late last year. The oil giant noted that it expected to spend an average of $5.5 billion per year during that time frame, which it could fully fund on the cash flows produced on $50 oil. That spending level would enable ConocoPhillips to grow its production at a 5% compound annual growth rate (CAGR) while cash flow expanded at an even faster 10% CAGR over that period. In the meantime, the company noted that it could sustain its production rate as well as its dividend if oil fell below $40. Combine that sustainability at lower oil prices with the $4.8 billion of cash on its balance sheet at the end of the third quarter -- which ConocoPhillips could use to continue buying back its stock -- and the company will be just fine if crude keeps falling.
Built to run on $50 a barrel
Marathon Oil (NYSE:MRO) has also reshaped its business to prosper on lower oil prices. The company, like most others on this list, set its 2018 budget to the cash flows it expected to produce on $50 oil. In Marathon's case, that would give it enough money to pay its dividend while growing its production by 15% to 19% compared to 2017. With more than $1.5 billion in cash on its balance sheet at the end of the third quarter, Marathon Oil also has plenty of leeway to survive the stormy oil market.
Great oil stocks for the long term
Because these oil companies built their businesses to run on lower oil prices, they won't need to make any changes to their plans in light of the recent plunge in crude prices. Instead, the recent downdraft in the oil market could benefit these companies since they can lock in lower rates on services and equipment as well as buy back more of their stock at lower prices. That would enable them to make more money and create more shareholder value in the long run, especially if crude prices bounce back in the future.