Earnings season is in full swing and it can feel like information overload. That's why it's important to have a game plan in place before things get crazy.
With that in mind, we asked some of our contributors what energy stocks they're watching this quarter and what they're looking for in those reports. Here's a closer look at what they're keeping an eye on when TotalEnergies (NYSE:TTE), ConocoPhillips (NYSE:COP), and EOG Resources (NYSE:EOG) report earnings.
Lots of action to catch up on
Reuben Gregg Brewer (TotalEnergies): My main oil investment is TotalEnergies, the integrated French energy giant that has laid out plans to transition its business more toward clean energy. To be honest, since oil prices have recovered from their pandemic lows, I'm not all that worried about earnings. I'm confident they'll be solid and more than ample to support the fat 7.2% dividend yield. So my real question is what might the long-term future hold -- and that means understanding the electrons, or clean energy, business.
TotalEnergies' goal is to increase its electrons business from 5% of the company in 2019 to 15% by 2030. However, after peer Royal Dutch Shell was told to speed up its clean energy transition efforts by a Dutch court, I have a little extra trepidation about the future here. TotalEnergies, for what it's worth, has specifically stated that any change in timeline in the EU's clean energy plans would likely lead the oil giant to speed up its plans, as well. So the company is looking to be flexible.
But a lot has changed in a short period of time and I'm looking forward to an update on the electrons business. Over the last four months or so, the company has made more than a dozen announcements about clean energy-related plans. While all of the deals are real, some of this is likely virtue signaling, as the company wants to show off its clean credentials. However, I want to know what's important enough to discuss with analysts on the earnings conference call because that's where investors will need to focus their attention.
This stock could jump if it beats muted earnings estimate
Neha Chamaria (ConocoPhillips): I have my eyes glued on ConocoPhillips' upcoming quarterly earnings release on Aug. 3 for several reasons, the primary being that it'll be the first full quarter since ConocoPhillips' acquisition of Concho Resources.
ConocoPhillips shares have shot up so far this year in anticipation of strong cash flow growth ahead, buoyed by rallying oil prices and Concho's contribution to the company. In the first quarter, ConocoPhillips said it was integrating Concho faster than expected, which means investors should get a firsthand idea about how much Concho could contribute to the company's cash flows. Higher cash flows are crucial for ConocoPhillips at this juncture given how much its debt level and shareholder returns depend on it. For example, ConocoPhillips plans to reduce debt by nearly $5 billion over the next five years and wants to return at least 30% of its cash from operations to shareholders.
Also, ConocoPhillips planned to start selling its 10% stake in Cenovus Energy from its second quarter onward through the end of next year and use the proceeds to repurchase its own shares. That's another update worth watching in ConocoPhillips' upcoming quarterly report.
Above all, with the Concho acquisition behind it, ConocoPhillips should be able to trim its capital spending budget for 2021 and free up even more cash, which should be great news for shareholders. With consensus estimates calling for a nearly 143% jump in ConocoPhillips' year-over-year Q2 revenue but a sharp slump in earnings per share even as several analysts have recently turned bullish about the stock, Aug. 3 should be an interesting day for ConocoPhillips shareholders.
What will it do with its growing cash flow gusher?
Matt DiLallo (EOG Resources): Oil companies have remained surprisingly disciplined this year. Despite a more than 50% rally that has pushed crude over $70 a barrel, producers haven't boosted their drilling programs. Instead, they've used their cash flow gusher to repay debt and return additional money to shareholders.
For example, EOG Resources generated a record $1.1 billion in free cash flow during the first quarter. It used some of that money to pay a $600 million special dividend, which will push its total expected dividend outlay to $1.5 billion this year after it increased its regular payment by another 10%. The company also paid off $750 million in debt.
However, that's just a fraction of the cash EOG is on pace to produce this year. At $60 a barrel, EOG said it could generate $3.4 billion in free cash. With crude in the $70s, that number will be even higher.
I'm watching to see what EOG Resources plans to do with its growing gusher when it reports its second-quarter results in early August. It has several options, including boosting its capital spending plan, making acquisitions, or returning additional cash to shareholders through another special dividend or share repurchase program.
EOG has pledged to remain disciplined by maintaining its production rate in 2021. However, the company could get a jump start on next year by beginning to ramp up its activity level and growing its inventory of drilled but uncompleted wells. As an industry leader, EOG's next move makes it an interesting oil stock to watch this earnings season.