Los Angeles Business Journal

Lower Oxy Profit Better Than Expected

By Deborah Crowe Thursday, April 25, 2013

Occidental Petroleum Corp on Thursday reported higher-than-expected net income as the oil and gas company employed cost cutting domestically to offset the impact of lower natural gas prices.

The Los Angeles company reported net income of $1.36 billion ($1.68 a share) 12 percent (24 cents) lower than in the same period a year earlier. Excluding one-time items, net income was $1.69 a share, better than the $1.54 consensus of analysts surveyed by Thomson Reuters.

Revenue fell 6 percent to less than $5.9 billion, with U.S. well and operating costs down by about 19 percent compared with last year. Maintenance in Qatar and production contracts in the Middle East led to a decline in international sales volume of about 15,000 barrels of oil a day. Oil prices were up 2 percent from the fourth quarter, but natural gas prices were down 11 percent.

In a conference call with analysts, Chief Executive Stephen Chazen said the board may consider selling parts of the company or converting some operations into tax-advantaged master limited partnerships if that would help lift the stock’s price, which is down 9 percent from its 52-week high.

“There may be assets that we can sell that aren’t contributing much to the business,” he said. “But I think you don’t want to go down the path of sort of a delicatessen approach to this where you slice a piece of baloney off and throw it to the wolves.”

Chazen, 66, declined to comment on the timing of his retirement or a reported conflict with Chairman Ray Irani, which has been the topic of much speculation and led the board earlier this month to issue a statement denying any rift. Irani plans to retire from the board at the end of next year.

In a note to investors, analyst Pavel Molchanov of Raymond James & Associates in St. Petersburg, Fla. noted that while the ongoing corporate drama “deserves its own daytime show,” the more substantive question is whether the company will follow other energy producers in selling off assets.

“In our view, (it’s) the surest way to unlock significant franchise value,” Molchanov said, noting that some of Occidental’s international operations continue to slow down companywide growth.

Shares closed up $1.44, or 1.5 percent, to $85.55 on the New York Stock Exchange.