Occidental Petroleum plans to cut capital spending after oil futures plummeted below some of its hedging levels and threatened its dividend, according to people familiar with the matter. The company’s shares tumbled by a record.
The Houston-based explorer is reacting to crude’s plunge of more than 30% on Monday to protect the payout, which Chief Executive Officer Vicki Hollub has said is “one of the defining characteristics” of the company. Rivals including Diamondback Energy Inc. and Parsley Energy Inc. also announced plans to reduce drilling activity.
Shares of Occidental dropped as much as 48% Monday amid a broad market sell-off, as a full-blown oil price war between Saudi Arabia and Russia rattled markets already concerned over the impact of the coronavirus. Among large shale producers, Occidental is one of the more exposed to falling crude prices after taking on massive debt to buy Anadarko Petroleum Corp. last year.
While crude’s collapse has taken prices below the company’s Brent short puts of $45 a barrel within three-way collars, it would cause the company to outspend cash flow by about $2.6 billion post-dividend, analysts at Tudor, Pickering, Holt & Co. said in a note. Their conclusion was clear: “Occidental needs to cut its dividend,” read the report’s title.
Occidental spokeswoman Melissa Schoeb declined to comment on the dividend but pointed to Hollub’s comments on a Feb. 28 conference call where she said the company is “prepared to reduce our spending if the current environment does not improve.”
Occidental now has a market value of about $15.7 billion, less than half the price it paid for Anadarko. The bonds it issued to fund the acquisition plunged on Monday, with 4.4% ones maturing in 2049 down by the most since issuance in August, according to Trace bond trading data.
Occidental’s hedge position isn’t worthless. The company made money as oil prices moved down and it will make about $900 million on the trade if Brent stays below $45 a barrel for the rest of the year, according to Bloomberg calculations.