Oil supermajor Chevron (CVX -1.77%) announced a quarterly loss of $8.3 billion, or $4.44 per share on Friday. That set the record for its biggest quarterly loss since its 2001 merger with Texaco, surpassing Q4 2019's $6.6 billion ($3.51 per share) loss.

Even adjusted losses -- which stripped out the $2.6 billion writedown of the company's Venezuela operations, among other one-time charges -- totaled $3 billion, or $1.59 per share. That was much worse than analysts' consensus estimate of a $0.93-per-share loss.

Despite the losses, Chevron left its dividend unchanged at $1.29 per share for Q3 2020.

An oil barrel spills its contents onto a messy pile of $100 bills.

Image source: Getty Images.

Trading places

Chevron's poor performance was surprising, despite general knowledge that oil companies would fare badly in Q2 due to the coronavirus pandemic and March's oil price crash. However, unlike peers ExxonMobil and Royal Dutch Shell (RDS.A) (RDS.B), Chevron had posted a profit in Q1. That outperformance vanished in Q2; its losses far exceeded the other companies'. 

A big reason Chevron underperformed Shell was the latter's large trading operation. By trading oil and energy-related financial instruments during the quarter, Shell was able to profit from the volatility in oil prices and offset some of the losses it suffered from low prices. Chevron, which has no trading operation, didn't have that luxury.

"We're focused on what we can control. Our actions are guided by our values and our long-standing financial priorities: to protect the dividend, invest for long term value and maintain a strong balance sheet," said CEO Michael K. Wirth in a press release.