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As costs have increased and margins are expecting to decrease, oil and gas majors including Exxon Mobil (NYSE:XOM) are feeling the squeeze. As this period of weakness is underway, these companies are reassessing their assets and presenting the long-term investor some excellent opportunities.

Setting the Tone

Last week Royal Dutch Shell (NYSE:RDS.A)(NYSE:RDS.B) "set the tone" for the majors, warning their fourth-quarter earnings would be "significantly lower" than 2012. Some of their reasons for this are:

  • profit margins on products from Shell's refineries continued to be under pressure in Asia, Europe and Australia.
  • maintenance expenses in gas-to-liquids plants in Qatar.
  • security issues in Nigeria causing pipelines to shutdown.

Even though Exxon Mobil has not issued a "profit warning" like Shell, there have been a series of downgrades and speculation regarding the company's upcoming earnings report.

  • Bank of America's Merrill Lynch analysts recently downgraded their rating on Exxon, saying the company faced "production headwinds" that would hurt its performance.
  • Cheng and Kit cut their Exxon Mobil earnings forecast for 2014 to $7.20 from $7.40. The reason for the reduction in earnings is due to "another year of negative production growth."

In an article from the Globe and Mail, Pavel Molchanov, a Houston-based analyst with Raymond James Financial Inc. stated that Exxon will be focusing on their best assets. The article explains: "He expects that companies will rein in spending to focus on their best assets, noting that both Exxon and France's Total SA (NYSE:TOT) have indicated they will be cutting their capital budgets."

Macro View

Oil Price estimates

Adding to the issue listed above, the EIA has estimated that oil prices will remain volatile but stagnant over the next few years. In 2014, WTI crude oil is projected to average $93/bbl while in 2015 estimates are that WTI averages around $90/bbl. There will be many variables that create volatility over the next few years. As the chart below indicates, WTI could range from ~$120.00 to ~$80.00 per barrel.

(click to enlarge)

Natural Gas

Even though the price of oil is expected to remain relatively stagnant over the next few years, there is a different story for the price on Nat Gas. The EIA [pdf] believes the demand is growing for natural gas. In its Annual Energy Outlook 2013, the EIA notes that exports will be a driving factor in the increased demand for natural gas over the long term:

"Exports (will) continue to grow at a rate of about 17.7% per year from 2020 to 2040. Net exports in 2020 are less than 1 percent of total consumption; in 2040 they are 12 percent of consumption."

In the chart below, the EIA displays five different scenarios regarding the price increase of natural gas. These scenarios are based on a multitude of events. They range from a shortage of natural gas where the price increases very quickly, to a glut of resources where the price acceleration is much slower.

Global consumption Oil

As the price of oil is expected to average just over $90.00 in the next 2 years, global consumption is expected to continue to grow.

According to the EIA, global consumption grew by 1.2 million bbl/d in 2013. The organization expects global consumption to grow by a similar pace of 1.2 million bbl/d in 2014 and increase to 1.4 million bbl/d in 2015, exceeding 93 million bbl/d by the second half of 2015.

Why Exxon?

As the company is refocusing their capital spending in efforts alleviate weaker margins over the next year or so, this should prove to be beneficial for the long-term investor. If an investor has a timeline longer than a couple of years, the next year or so could provide some significant buying opportunities.

Currently Exxon Mobil pays a yield of 2.70%. Future cash flows are expected to be slightly lower than anticipated with the price of oil being slightly depressed, but with global consumption on the rise, the demand will continue to be there.

Valuations

In the section below, I will use a couple of different methods to find a valuation of the stock price. In this section, I will use the EV/ EBITDA to assess if the stock is over or undervalued compared to the industry average, the Discounted Cash Flow valuation model and forward P/E ratios to estimate the current value of each share.

EV/EBITDA = Enterprise Value / Earnings before interest, Taxes, Depreciation and Amortization

In the next section, I will use the EBITDA to calculate the EV/EBITDA. The adjusted EBITDA takes into account foreign exchange and share-based payment expenses. The EV/EBITDA ratio is one of the most commonly used valuation metrics, as EBITDA is commonly used as a proxy for cash flow available to the firm. Integrated oil and gas stocks typically have an EV/EBITDA ratio that trades in the 4.0x to 5.0x trading range.

Enterprise Value or EV = Market Capitalization + Total Debt - Cash and Cash Equivalents.

  • EV - $414.495 billion + 13.306 billion - 9.582 billion = $244.390 billion
  • EV = 418.219 billion
  • EBITDA = 77.528
  • EV/EBITDA = 5.39

As the Integrated oil and gas sector often trades in the 4.62 trading range, an EV/EBITDA ratio of 5.39 indicates at current levels the stock is trading just over fair value compared to other companies in its sector.

Discounted Cash Flow

I believe using the Discounted Cash Flow valuation model for Exxon Mobil to be fair because DCF analysis can help one see where the company's value is coming from and one can generate an opinion based on that.

(click to enlarge)

Even though there are variations in calculating this formula, this model is based on a terminal value of $358.179B and a WACC of 4.62%. The terminal value $358.179B is based off of the company trading at 4.62x EBITDA which is the EV/EBITDA value for the industry. At this point in the market, using the valuations above, I have concluded Exxon's current value to be $94.11 per share.

As of January 28th, Exxon's stock was trading at $95.34. Using the Discount Cash Flow Formula, this indicates the stock overvalued by 1.06%.

Strategy

I believe if you added a small position here, accumulated over time, and collected the 2.7% yield and wait for the industry to "pick up," this would reap rewards for the long-term investor.

Conclusion

As the company is reassessing its assets and concentrating on its most profitable ones, this should prove to be a positive catalyst for margins moving forward. Even though there is limited growth forecast for Exxon over the next few years, I believe any pullback in price is a buying opportunity. As Exxon Mobil has an outstanding management team, it will be able to capitalize when market conditions dictate. As the next year or so should bring some volatility, the company will pay the investor a 2.7% yield to wait.

Source: Exxon Mobil: Accumulate And Wait