Big Oil Faces Headwinds After Record $199 Billion Profit Haul

Exxon Mobil Corp., Chevron Corp., Shell Plc, TotalEnergies SE and BP Plc reaped almost $200 billion collectively last year but fears of an economic slowdown, plunging natural gas prices, cost inflation and uncertainty over China’s re-opening are dimming the outlook for 2023.

The five companies are expected to report $198.7 billion in combined 2022 profit in coming days, 50% higher than the previous annual record set more than a decade ago, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

The tsunami of cash generated by the group over the past 12 months means the industry can sustain dividend increases and share buybacks, analysts said. Crucially for shareholders, management teams held off on spending increases as commodities boomed, in stark contrast with previous cycles.

Instead, they opted to repay debt and swell investor returns: Chevron stunned shareholders with a $75 billion stock-repurchase announcement on Wednesday — five times the company’s current annual outlay for buybacks.

“Commodity prices are down across the board relative to record 2022 levels, but it still looks like it’s going to be a very strong year,” said Kim Fustier, head of European oil and gas research at HSBC Holdings Plc. “It could very well be the second best year in history for overall distributions and share buybacks.”