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Oxy Suffers $2.6B Quarterly Loss, Production Rises

Occidental Petroleum Corp. (Oxy) on Wednesday reflected the paradox of continuing slumping global oil prices as it generated red ink during 3Q2015 but still reported solid production. It also confirmed the $600 million sale of its Bakken Shale assets in North Dakota.

The company reported a $2.6 billion loss (minus $3.42/share) in 3Q2015, compared with profits in the year-ago period of $1.208 billion ($1.55). Excluding one-time items, Oxy earned $24 million (3 cents/share) in 3Q2015, versus $1.046 billion ($1.34) in the year-ago period.

Total production in 3Q2015 was 689,000 boe/d, 16% higher year-over-year, driven by increases in the Permian Basin and international operations. Permian spending represented more than half of total capital expenditures.

Drilling down into Oxy's core results and noncore adjustments, the losses for U.S. oil/gas operations occurred in both as 3Q2015 domestic oil/gas lost $179 million, compared with $486 million of net income for the same period last year.

And in the noncore adjustments, the bulk of the losses was shared between both U.S. and foreign oil/gas operations with the U.S. accounting for a negative $1.8 billion and the foreign side showing another $1.4 billion in losses. The noncore oil/gas losses ($3.29 billion) were reduced to the net $2.6 billion figure through $667 million in tax credits.

CEO-designate Vicki Hollub affirmed during a conference call that Oxy is selling its Williston Basin assets in North Dakota and would “continue to evaluate” assets in the Middle East.

Hollub is to succeed Steve Chazen, who continues to lead the company. "Our principle goal this year is to adjust our business to the current low commodity price environment."

Oxy intends to focus its cost savings and cash flow-building in the Permian and internationally with its $10 billion Al Hosn project in Abu Dhabi, Hollub said.

Hollub said Oxy has "ample room" to lower its operating costs, and that should "enable us to return the business to profitability at lower prices."

The Williston Basin sale should close by the end of the year, she said. Although the company has not issued a formal announcement on the sale, it had been reported earlier this month that Oxy was selling its 300,000 acres to Houston-based private equity fund Lime Rock Resources (see Shale Daily,Oct. 16).

"Due to our curtailed spending in the [Williston] and the nature of the assets, production has declined about 25% quarter-over-quarter, and we expect the production to continue to decline, given our limited capital investments in the basin," Hollub said.

She said Oxy has been developing more assets in the Permian that are economic at under $60/bbl oil prices, and the North Dakota assets can't compete for capital at a time when Oxy is reducing capital spending overall.

"Simply put, acreage in North Dakota cannot compete with our acreage in the Permian," she said.

Chazen added that the sale of Bakken assets for about $600 million came after Oxy concluded that there was no scenario where the company could rationalize more investment there, "given what we have in the Permian." He called the decision to sell "pretty easy."

"For $600 million we could run four or five rigs in the Permian Basin for a year and generate more production than we would get out of the Bakken," he said.

Permian production hit 116,000 boe/d in 3Q2015, a 6% increase sequentially and a 51% increase year/year, Hollub said. Oil production increased to 74,000 b/d, a 72% increase.

Oxy has 12 rigs operating in the Permian and plans to drill and complete 50 more horizontal wells in the fourth quarter.

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