Energy stocks continue to be a fertile hunting ground for investors looking for big returns. For instance, shale superstars like Range Resources (RRC) continue to put up big production gains and profits as they frack their way into America’s shale basins. And at the end of the day, these smaller, independent energy stocks will be the market leaders of the future.
Still, there’s also something to be said about holding steady blue-chip energy stocks in your portfolio, too.
Featuring vast reserves, hefty cash flows and juicy dividend payments, blue chips in the energy sector can provide plenty of stability when balancing them with the faster shale players. Meanwhile, many of these companies can be had for relative peanuts, trading for historically low price-to-earnings ratios and other metrics.
So if you’re looking to add some exposure in energy, definitely fill up on the smaller players … but balance yourself with one or more of these best of the best blue chips:
Blue-Chip Energy Stocks to Buy #1: ConocoPhillips (COP)
COP has continued with its plan to focus on the United States and has begun selling off various international assets. Overall, the blue-chip energy company managed to sell roughly $12 billion worth of assets last year.
What’s more is that Conoco has continued to plow those profits back into its on- and offshore holdings here at home, adding acreage in the Bakken and Eagle Ford shales.
So far, so good.
ConocoPhillips increased production in 2013 and has plans to grow it by 3% to 5% this year by tapping hot beds of activity like the Permian Basin. The key for COP has been its focus on liquids-rich assets and more profitable shale oil and natural gas liquids (NGLs) production. That has helped prop up higher gross profit margins than other rivals.
It also has produced some hefty cash flows for investors in COP stock. ConocoPhillips managed to generate roughly $15.8 billion in cash last year — of which investors received about $3.3 billion in dividends. Based on its most recent payout of 69 cents, COP is yielding 4%. Best of all, it trades at just 11 times next year’s projected earnings.
ConocoPhillips won’t double your money anytime soon, but you can still do well with this slow-and-steady performer.
Blue-Chip Energy Stocks to Buy #2: Exxon Mobil (XOM)
As one of the world’s biggest energy companies, Exxon Mobil (XOM) hasn’t lived up to its “tiger” moniker as of late. Falling production, dwindling profits and a tough refining environment has made the blue-chip energy firm a poor performer over the past few years.
But … things are beginning to turn around.
Like ConocoPhillips, XOM has begun to focus more on liquids and oil production than natural gas. After buying fracking leader XTO back in 2010, Exxon was heavily tied to dry natural gas production. And given the soft pricing environment for the fuel, margins and profits have been crimped. However, according to data compiled by Bloomberg, Exxon now has 53% of its reserves in oil and natural gas liquids (NGLs) vs. dry natural gas. That higher oil cut can be seen as major win for the king of blue chip energy stocks and its investors.
Higher profits from better-priced shale oil and NGLs will ultimately boost XOM’s already hefty cash flows and dividends. Exxon managed to produce almost $45 billion in operating cash flows last year, and with more oil on the table, that number should improve further.
Exxon yields 2.7% in dividends and has a sterling history of improving its payout, and could prove to be another stalwart performer for investors looking for energy stocks to hold for the super-long term.
Blue Chip Energy Stocks to Buy #3: Statoil ASA (STO)
North America isn’t home to all the blue-chip energy stocks out there. Case in point: Norwegian giant Statoil (STO).
As with XOM and COP, Statoil recently has begun a transformation to give its shareholders more “oomph” for their investment. Gone are the days of growth for growth’s sake; now, STO is hunkering down and focusing on core areas of operations. That includes a hefty dose of U.S. shale, as well as its bread ‘n’ butter North Sea assets.
So far, it seems to be finding major successes in those regions.
Statoil has managed to see a 13% compounded annual growth rate (CAGR) in terms of production from its holdings in the Marcellus, Bakken and Eagle Ford shales. Meanwhile, some of its most exciting finds have happened in the offshore and deepwater sectors. STO hit paydirt off the coast of Canada with three massive finds over the summer. Those — plus the monster Johan Sverdrup field in its home turf of Norway — have the power to transform the foreign blue chip back into being a leader in the oil & gas sector.
It also makes Statoil one of the best energy stocks to buy now.
Often ignored STO stock is currently cheaper than XOM (at just 10 times next year’s earnings) and offers a slightly higher dividend yield at 3.1%. Meanwhile, the firm isn’t potentially bogged down by refining issues and low natural prices. The bulk of its production comes from oil; specifically, higher-priced Brent-benchmarked crude.
All of that makes Statoil a particularly appealing long-term energy buy.
As of this writing, Aaron Levitt did not hold a position in any of the aforementioned securities.