by Steve St. Angelo, SRSrocco:
The world’s largest oil companies are in serious trouble as their balance sheets deteriorate from higher costs, falling profits and skyrocketing debt. The glory days of the highly profitable global oil companies have come to an end. All that remains now is a mere shadow of the once mighty oil industry that will be forced to continue cannibalizing itself to produce the last bit of valuable oil.
I realize my extremely unfavorable opinion of the world’s oil industry runs counter to many mainstream energy analysts, however, their belief that business, as usual, will continue for decades, is entirely unfounded. Why? Because, they do not understand the ramifications of the Falling EROI – Energy Returned On Invested, and its impact on the global economy.
For example, Chevron was able to make considerable profits in 1997 when the oil price was $19 a barrel. However, the company suffered a loss in 2016 when the price was more than double at $44 last year. And, it’s even worse than that if we compare the company’s profit to total revenues. Chevron enjoyed a $3.2 billion net income profit on revenues of $42 billion in 1997 versus a $497 million loss on total sales of $114 billion in 2016. Even though Chevron’s revenues nearly tripled in twenty years, its profit was decimated by the falling EROI.
Unfortunately, energy analysts, who are clueless to the amount of destruction taking place in the U.S. and global oil industry by the falling EROI, continue to mislead a public that is totally unprepared for what is coming. To provide a more realistic view of the disintegrating energy industry, I will provide data from seven of the largest oil companies in the world.
The World’s Major Oil Companies Debt Explode Since The 2008 Financial Crisis
To save the world from falling into total collapse during the 2008 financial crisis, the Fed and Central Banks embarked on the most massive money printing scheme in history. One side-effect of the massive money printing (and the purchasing of assets) by the central banks, was that it pushed the price of oil to a record $100+ a barrel for more than three years. While the large oil companies reported handsome profits due to the high oil price, many of them spent a great deal of capital to produce this oil.
For instance, the seven top global oil companies that I focused on made a combined $213 billion in cash from operations in 2013. However, they also forked out $230 billion in capital expenditures. Thus, the net free cash flow from these major oil companies was a negative $17 billion… and that doesn’t include the $44 billion they paid in dividends to their shareholders in 2013. Even though the price of oil was $109 in 2013; these seven oil companies added $45 billion to their long-term debt:
As we can see, the total amount of long-term debt in the group (Petrobras, Shell, BP, Total, Chevron, Exxon & Statoil) increased from $227 billion in 2012 to $272 billion in 2013. Isn’t that ironic that the debt ($45 billion) rose nearly the same amount as the group’s dividend payouts ($44 billion)? Of course, we can’t forget about the negative $17 billion in free cash flow in 2013, but here we see evidence that the top seven global oil companies were borrowing money even in 2013, at $109 a barrel oil, to pay their dividends.
Since the 2008 global economic and financial crisis, the top seven oil companies have seen their total combined debt explode four times, from $96 billion to $379 billion currently. You would think with these energy companies enjoying a $100+ oil price for more than three years; they would be lowering their debt, not increasing it. Regrettably, the cost for companies to replace reserves, produce oil and share profits with shareholders was more than the $110 oil price.
There lies the rub….
One of the disadvantages of skyrocketing debt is the rising amount of interest the company has to pay to service that debt. If we look at the chart above, Brazil’s Petrobras is the clear winner in the group by adding the most debt. Petrobras’s debt surged from $21 billion in 2008 to $109 billion last year. As Petrobras added debt, it also had to pay out more to service that debt. In just eight years, the annual interest amount Petrobras paid to service its debt increased from $793 million in 2008 to $6 billion last year. Sadly, Petrobras’s rising interest payment has caused another nasty side-effect which cut dividend payouts to its shareholders to ZERO for the past two years.
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