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Occidental Petroleum Cuts Dividend to a Penny

By Howard Smith – Jun 1, 2020 at 10:13AM

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It's the second time in three months that the debt-laden oil company is slashing its quarterly payout.

After lowering its quarterly dividend by 86% to $0.11 on March 10, Occidental Petroleum (OXY 0.56%) updated its dividend policy again on Friday, slashing it to almost zero. The quarterly dividend to be paid in July will be just $0.01 per share.

At the time of the March dividend cut, the company also said it was reducing 2020 capital spending by about 30% along with additional operational and corporate cost reductions. All of this was in response to the low price of oil, but was particularly necessary due to Occidental's high debt load. 

oil rigs in front of a sunset

Image source: Getty Images.

When discussing the fiscal tightening in March, President and CEO Vicki Hollub said that "these actions lower our cash flow breakeven level to the low $30s WTI." While oil prices are currently back in the low to mid $30s, Hollub said on Friday at its shareholder meeting, "we've taken a series of decisive financial and operational actions to ensure that [Occidental] has the resiliency to weather this difficult period while positioning the company to succeed in future higher price environments," The Wall Street Journal reports. 

Besides operational costs, Occidental is encumbered with an abundance of debt after its $38 billion acquisition of Anadarko Petroleum. That deal was closed in August, just months before the COVID-19 pandemic severely sapped demand and sent oil prices tumbling. In addition to the new dividend policy, the company has further cut its capital spending plan for this year to about half of what it had originally budgeted. 

Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway (BRK.A -0.85%) (BRK.B -0.91%) helped finance the Anadarko deal with a $10 billion purchase of preferred stock in Occidental. That deal required the oil company to pay Berkshire $200 million a quarter, but it will make this quarter's payment in discounted Occidental shares in order to conserve cash. 

Howard Smith owns shares of Berkshire Hathaway (B shares). The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Berkshire Hathaway (B shares) and recommends the following options: long January 2021 $200 calls on Berkshire Hathaway (B shares), short January 2021 $200 puts on Berkshire Hathaway (B shares), and short June 2020 $205 calls on Berkshire Hathaway (B shares). The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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