Exxon Mobil's dividend announcement led to some skepticism that the company was trying to get out ahead of the bad earnings report with a cash reward to shareholders, even if quarterly profits again trumped the annual GDP of several nations.
There's no need to be so skeptical, though: An increasing dividend profile is really all these companies can offer, and it's typical for them to release the dividend news ahead of earnings, too. What Exxon reported earnings-wise should have been expected.
Exxon, even as the biggest of the Big Oil bunch, is oddly the odd man out in many categories versus peers. It's not just the dividend laggard -- even after its big raise this quarter - but it has a worse profitability per barrel of oil than Chevron and has a less flattering oil vs. natural gas production mix than peers. Yet Exxon Mobil trades at a premium to peers, a premium that is eroding.
Which is why I say that this week, and this earnings day, was an apocalyptic one for a company in a sector mired in the existential crisis of imperial proportions. For all of the hard, nasty, dangerous and expensive work of trying to keep ahead of world demand for oil through its far flung global production search, diving ever deeper into the deep of the sea and this way and that way through the boomtown shale basins of the Dakotas and Poland, Exxon Mobil's big market enticement is a yield that beats t-bills.
Welcome to the world of sovereign nations, Exxon Mobil. And enjoy the yield, investors. A lot of work goes into beating the U.S. government.
-- Written by Eric Rosenbaum from New York.
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