How the oil companies are spending their money

Over the last several years, the major oil companies have been driven away from investing money in future exploration and production. The so-called Supermajors, Exxon, BP, Shell, Chevron, Conoco, and Total have paid more in taxes than they have invested in the oil business. For the three year period, 2005 to 2007 these companies have paid $292 billion in taxes and invested $265 billion in capital projects. Stunningly, Exxon has spent nearly twice as much buying back it’s own stock ($78 billion) as it has on capital projects ($44 billion).

Exxon Mobil’s three year record of capital spending, stock buybacks and tax payments are indicative of serious secular and structural changes in the provision of energy.  Exxon Mobil is buying back stock because they can’t find enough energy investments to deploy their excess cashflow. Domestic drilling is severely constrained and international opportunities are scarce. If the business was so great they would use more money to invest in exploration.



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