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Chevron (CVX)

Q4 2010 Earnings Call

January 28, 2011 11:00 am ET


Patricia Yarrington - Chief Financial Officer and Vice President

John Watson - Chairman and Chief Executive Officer

Jeanette Ourada -


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Good morning. My name is Shawn, and I will be your conference facilitator today. Welcome to Chevron's Fourth Quarter 2010 Earnings Conference Call. [Operator Instructions] I will now turn the conference call over to the Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Chevron Corp., Mr. John Watson. Please go ahead.

John Watson

Okay. Thanks, Shawn. Welcome to Chevron's fourth quarter earnings conference call and webcast. On the call with me today are Pat Yarrington, our CFO; and Jeanette Ourada, the General Manager of Investor Relations. Our focus today is on our financial and operating results for the fourth quarter of 2010, and we will refer to the slides that are available on our website. Of course, before we get started, please be reminded that this presentation contains estimates, projections and other forward-looking statements, and we ask that you review the cautionary statement on Slide 2.

I'd like to share some of our strategic accomplishments for 2010, which are located on Slide 3. I'll begin with our safety performance. This past year, we achieved our safest year ever, again, I might add, our safest year ever with both our Upstream and Downstream operations setting new records. We're very proud of our world-class safety performance, and it will continue to underpin everything we do.

In the Upstream, our achievements were many. We exceeded our production growth guidance, delivering 2% growth for the year. We progressed a number of key projects. We sanctioned three Deepwater projects in the Gulf of Mexico, along with Papa-Terra project in Brazil. We also sanctioned the expansion of the Caspian Pipeline, a critical step forward for our next Tengiz expansion in Kazakhstan. We continued our Australian exploration success, with five discoveries. This brings us to a total of nine discoveries since we sanctioned Gorgon 18 months ago. These additional volumes will support expansion opportunities at both Gorgon and Wheatstone.

Finally, we added a significant amount of new Deepwater and shale acreage to our portfolio. We're currently in the early phases of evaluating and planning for these new opportunities. Looking at our Downstream business, we made truly great progress in the first year of a three-year plan to improve returns. A new organization is now in place and focused on tactical plans to improve performance.

In 2010, we sold the Colonial Pipeline, exited seven countries and most U.S. East Coast markets. We received good value for these assets. These exits lower costs and capital employed in the Downstream, allowing us to focus on markets of competitive strength. We also made progress on our capital projects with start-ups in the U.S., Korea and Qatar. And all 2010 was an excellent year, both operationally and financially.

Pat will now take you through our fourth quarter financial results. So I'll turn it over to Pat.

Patricia Yarrington

Okay. Thanks, John. Slide 4 provides an overview of our financial performance. The company's fourth quarter earnings were $5.3 billion or $2.64 per diluted share. Comparing the fourth quarter 2010 to the same quarter a year earlier, our earnings were up over 70%. Upstream benefited from higher prices and sales volumes, and Downstream benefited from higher refined product and chemical margins and asset sales.

For the year, earnings were $19 billion or $9.48 per diluted share. Return on capital employed for the year was over 17%, and our debt ratio at year end was 9.8%. We paid $5.7 billion in dividends, and 2010 marked the 23rd consecutive annual dividend increase, with an annual average growth rate over the period of 7%.

In the fourth quarter, we resumed our common stock repurchase program, repurchasing $750 million of our shares. In the first quarter of 2011, we expect to repurchase another $750 million.

Finally, Chevron's 2010 TSR, total shareholder return, was nearly 23%. Over a five-year period, we continue to hold the number one ranking in our peer group and has outpaced the S&P 500 by over 10%.

Now on Slide 5, underscoring Chevron's financial strength, our cash balances exceeded debt by $5.6 billion at the end of the year. In the fourth quarter, cash from operations exceeded $8 billion. For the full year, cash from operations exceeded $31 billion, a record for the company. And this is after nearly $1.5 billion in pension contributions.

Along with proceeds from our assets and divestments, our cash flow provided excellent support for our capital expenditures, our dividend payments and our share buyback program. Our previous investments are generating strong earnings and cash flow, allowing us to reinvest in our project queue, while sustaining meaningful dividend growth and a share buyback program. Certainly, our strong cash flows and our solid balance sheet continue to be a competitive advantage.

Turning to Slide 6. I'll compare results of the fourth quarter 2010 with the third quarter of 2010. And as a reminder, our earnings release compares fourth quarter 2010 with the same quarter a year ago. Fourth quarter earnings were $1.5 billion, higher than the third quarter. Results for all of the segments improved between periods. Upstream earnings were up nearly $1.3 billion, driven by higher oil prices and higher liftings. Downstream results were nearly $200 million higher. Gains on asset sales and favorable timing effects were partly offset by higher operating expenses. The variance in the other bar reflects the favorable swing in corporate tax items.

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