Exxon Mobil posts big loss, $3 billion writedown on oil price plungeExxon Mobil posts big loss, $3 billion writedown on oil price plunge
An Exxon gas station is seen in Houston

HOUSTON (Reuters) – Exxon Mobil Corp on Friday joined a parade of oil companies posting downbeat results on plunging oil demand and collapsing prices, reporting a $610 million first-quarter loss after a nearly $3 billion inventory writedown.

Global fuel demand has tumbled by a third on coronavirus-related lockdowns and business shutdowns. Oil giants largely have reported losses on weaker margins and writedowns from an oil glut that has sent prices to historic lows.

All of Exxon’s businesses posted lower profits or wider losses except for chemicals, where low oil and gas prices lifted earnings from a year earlier.

“COVID-19 has significantly impacted near-term demand, resulting in oversupplied markets and unprecedented pressure on commodity prices and margins,” said Exxon Chief Executive Darren Woods.

The company’s results echo those of rivals Royal Dutch Shell and BP, though Chevron reported a first-quarter profit gain due to asset sales.

The largest oil companies have largely sought to protect investor payouts by increasing borrowing or cutting expenses. Exxon, BP, and Chevron maintained their quarterly payouts while Shell cut its dividend for the first time since World War Two.

Exxon has cut this year’s project spending by $10 billion and expects to reduce oil and gas output by 400,000 barrel per day in line with rivals. Chevron also plans to cut as much as 300,000 bpd this month and up to 400,000 in June.

Exxon posted a loss of $610 million, or 14 cents per share, in the quarter, compared with a profit of $2.35 billion, or 55 cents per share, a year earlier.

Excluding charges, adjusted profit was 53 cents a share, above Wall Street’s forecast for an adjusted profit of 18 cents.

Earnings from oil and gas production fell 91% from a year ago on weak oil prices, but benefited from higher volumes. Exxon’s U.S. shale production was up 56% from a year-ago.

Its refining business, while swinging to a $611 million operating loss on weak demand and inventory charges, was aided by lower costs and gains from trading, the company said.

The chemical unit posted a profit of $144 million, down 75% from a year ago.

“The downstream in particular came in ahead of our expectations,” wrote RBC Capital Markets analyst Biraj Borkhataria. The chemicals unit “was a better result than any time in 2019,” he added.

Its shares were down 1% at $46.02 in pre-market trading. The stock is down 34% this year.

Exxon’s production rose slightly to about 4 million barrels of oil equivalent per day (boepd) from 3.98 million boepd.

(Reporting by Arathy S Nair in Bengaluru and Gary McWilliams in Houston; Editing by Arun Koyyur, David Goodman and David Gregorio)