Despite the boom in energy sector, shareholders of integrated oil stock Exxon (XOM) haven’t exactly been jumping for joy. XOM stock has suffered and is now one of the worst performers among major oil producers. XOM has only managed to produce a 2.6% gain this year — about one-third the performance of its biggest rival, Chevron (CVX).
Much of the underperformance is the result of several issues that continue to plague XOM: everything from dwindling production and higher costs to the ill-timed bet on natural gas via its XTO acquisition. And investors seem to be abandoning the former oil king.
However, with XOM recently reporting third-quarter earnings, it seems that some of these problems facing the integrated oil stock have begun to work themselves out. While that’s certainly a positive sign, the more important news is that Exxon is looking like a value play now that it’s sorting out those issues.
So, should you buy shares in the world’s largest publicly traded oil stock at current levels? Let’s take a look at some of the pros and cons of XOM:
Rising Production: The name of the game for major oil stocks the past few years has been finding new ways to boost production. As traditional legacy fields have begun to dry up, production has begun to slip fast. In the previous quarter, Exxon saw oil and natural gas production fall about 1.9% — the eighth consecutive quarter of year-over-year production drops for the energy giant. But XOM may have gotten the tiger back in its tank. The oil stock managed to see a 1.5% increase in its output of oil and natural gas, thanks to a slate of new projects that pushed output back over the 4 million barrels per day mark. From increased natural gas output in Australia to oil from Nigeria and Canada, XOM saw gains.
Still Minting Cash: Despite the 2% drop in revenues and the 18% drop in profits, Exxon still managed to make more money in three months than many firms make in an entire year. Profit in the third quarter for XOM was $7.87 billion or $1.79 per share. This sheer amount of money means that Exxon can still reward shareholders in other ways — namely through dividends and monster buybacks. Exxon Mobil spent about $3 billion on share buybacks in the latest quarter and has authorized another $3 billion for the fourth quarter. Meanwhile, there’s still room to raise XOM’s already-juicy 2.9% dividend yield.
Valuation: At the end of the day, XOM stock is cheap — dirt cheap. At about 11 times estimated 2014 earnings of $7.97, Exxon’s valuation is cheaper than many of its rivals and even cheaper when compared to high-flyers like previously mentioned Cabot. Analysts expect earnings to grow by about 70 cents next year, and 3% over the longer haul. That makes the oil stock a tasty bargain indeed.