Exxon Mobil (XOM) is a giant of a company with hands in almost every facet of the world economy. It is also one of the most successful companies for its investors, providing consistent and solid returns for years. The company recently announced the multi-billion-dollar expansion of its Baytown petrochemical complex. The project calls for an ethane cracker at its Baytown complex and two high performance polyethylene lines at its Mont Belvieu plastics plant. This move is set to capitalize on the abundance of shale gas which is transforming the oil and gas sector.
Exxon Mobil and Rosneft Oil (OTC:RNFTF) recently announced the signing of agreements to jointly explore and develop oil and natural gas in Russia. Rosneft is one of the leading oil companies in the world, and this agreement opens up a vast source of revenue for Exxon Mobil. In Tanzania, the company participated in a successful exploration well offshore, discovering approximately 5 trillion cubic feet of recoverable gas, while in Romania, an affiliate of Exxon Mobil drilled a successful deep-water new play test on the Neptune block in the Black Sea. It seems that everything this company does proves to be successful and financially rewarding.
Exxon Mobil is the leader of its pack of rivals such as ConocoPhillips (COP), Chevron (CVX), Royal Dutch Shell (RDS.A) and BP (BP), yet it is far from complacent in that leadership position. While Exxon Mobil is one of the largest companies in the world, it has proved remarkably adept at being able to change courses and find the best opportunities to make investors happy. It's the rare combination of a stable company combined with an aggressiveness that sees big returns. Exxon Mobil belongs in any portfolio.
The company is the leading natural gas producer in North America, and it is constantly looking for various ways and areas to sell its product. The company is studying plans to export liquefied natural gas from the United States, with the U.S. approving just one export project, but the company has 14 more filed awaiting approvals. There are concerns, however. Government regulations surrounding the environmental impact of drilling and exporting the natural gas, along with fears of rising U.S. gas prices and exports are the two main concerns.
Underscoring the company's concerns about regulations, in Kuala Lumpur at the World Gas Conference, the CEO of Exxon Mobil said,
Regulations should provide a clear, efficient roadmap for how to get things done, not a complex tangle of rules that are used to stop things from getting done. If government puts the development of these new sources of energy at a standstill, they will find their economies walking backwards. The recent North American experience in unconventional development has reminded the world of the value of competitive and free markets for improving the lives of consumers. Technological breakthroughs that allow for unconventional gas recovery emanate from investments and industry in private markets; they are not the result of government policies that pick winners and losers.
The Baytown project talked about earlier is an example of the company moving in new directions with plans for this new multi-million dollar chemical plant. The plant, to be built in Texas and expected to be completed in 2016, will allow Exxon Mobil to more effectively compete with rival and the largest chemical maker, Dow Chemical (DOW). The company had been planning this new construction for some time, but had been hesitant about jumping in until recently. Low natural gas prices and chemical production expansion by Shell, Dow and LyondellBasell (LYB) pushed Exxon Mobil into deciding to expand now rather than later. The chemical plant will ultimately produce ethylene, which is commonly used to make plastics, packaging and upholstery. The plant is estimated to provide more than $10 million in tax revenue and 3,700 more jobs for the local community.
Exxon Mobil has a history of finding opportunities for growth, sometimes seemingly out of nowhere. As an example, the company has begun making energy for one of its plants from garbage. It is using a municipal landfill in East Baton Rouge Parish Louisiana to power its polyolefin plant there. The decomposing waste in the landfill releases a gas composed of methane and carbon dioxide. After two years of research and development and $1.8 million in facility upgrades, the company is now treating and transporting the landfill gas about four miles to its plant to help fuel boilers that power its operations. The project eliminated the flaring of landfill gas and generated a new revenue stream for the city of Baton Rouge and East Baton Rouge Parish - not to mention the fact that using this gas as an energy source is equivalent to removing 59,000 cars from the road - which is very good public relations in today's green oriented country. This is one more example of how Exxon Mobil is an innovative force in today's market.
Exxon Mobil is as solid financially as ever. The company has strong cash flow from asset sales and operations of $66.5 billion. It has proved oil and gas reserve additions of 2 billion oil-equivalent barrels, replacing 116% of production, excluding asset sales; provides a total shareholder return of 19%, and total shareholder distributions of $29 billion; and an annual dividend per share growth of 6%, the 29th consecutive year of dividend per share increases.
The company had first quarter 2012 revenues of $124.05 billion, 2.01% above the prior year's first quarter results. Exxon Mobil has reach and depth and the history to back it up. The company pays an annualized dividend of $2.28 per share in quarterly installments. In 2011, the company reported a dividend of $1.85, representing a 6.32% increase over the previous year. There is no good reason not to own Exxon Mobil stock right now. Exxon is currently trading around $88 after slipping slightly on election results. I predict Exxon will maintain a price level of around $95 by late 2013 and into 2014.