On July 30, management of Linn Energy (LINE) and its sister company, LinnCo (LNCO) , recommended that the firms' board of directors suspend distributions at the end of the third quarter of 2015. CEO Mark Ellis said that the measure, which will reserve approximately $450 million in cash, is in the "best long-term interest of all company stakeholders."
The day prior, Consol Energy (CNX) - Get Report lowered its quarterly dividend and capital expenditures forecast. It cut its payout to 1 cent from 6.25 cents per share. Chesapeake Energy (CHK) - Get Reportscrapped its dividend earlier in the month, and Cenovus Energy (CVE) - Get Reportslashed its distribution by 40%.
Headwinds are strong in the energy sector, and as oil prices continue to fall, there may be no such thing as a sure dividend.
Nevertheless, some of companies are keeping their payouts around. Here are five companies that are maintaining -- and in one case, even increasing -- dividends, even as the going gets tougher.
Chevron (CVX) - Get Report posted some of its worst numbers in more than a decade in its second-quarter earnings report on July 31, making the announcement just two days after declaring its next dividend payment.
The company reported quarterly earnings of $571 million, or 30 cents per share, compared with $5.7 billion, or $2.98 per share, during the same period in 2014. Included in the quarter were impairments of $1.96 billion and other charges of about $670 million.
"Second quarter financial results were weak, reflecting a crude price decline of nearly 50 percent from a year ago," said chairman and CEO John Watson in a statement. He also said that the company is making "multiple efforts to improve future earnings and cash flows."
Chevron, like Exxon, is a dividend aristocrat. However, the company hasn't increased its distribution from $1.07 since the second quarter of 2014.
On July 16, ConocoPhillips (COP) - Get Report announced plans to increase its quarterly dividend by 1 cent to 74 cents per share. Chairman and CEO Ryan Lance acknowledged the importance of the dividend in the exploration and production company's overall business scheme.
"A compelling dividend is a key aspect of our value proposition to shareholders," he said. "While this increase is more modest than in previous years, we believe it is appropriate given the lower commodity price environment."
The increased quarterly dividend was listed as one of the highlights as ConocoPhillips' second-quarter earnings report, released on Thursday. The firm reported a second-quarter 2015 net loss of $179 million, or 15 cents per share, compared with earnings of $2.1 billion, or $1.67 per share, in the second quarter of 2014. Excluding certain items, the company's profit was 7 cents per share, above what Bloombergcalculated to be analysts' estimates of 4 cents a share.
While ConocoPhillips is holding on to its dividend, it is making cuts in other areas. It has reduced its 2015 capital expenditures guidance to $11 billion from $11.5 billion and cut operating costs guidance to $8.9 billion from $9.2 billion. CFO Jeff Sheets also told Reuters recently that more job cuts are planned as well.
Exxon Mobile (XOM) - Get Report declared its third-quarter dividend on July 29, payable on September 10. Two days later on Friday, it released second-quarter financial results, and the numbers weren't pretty.
Earnings for the period fell 52% from the year before to $4.2 billion from $8.8 billion. Earnings-per-share dipped to $1, down from $2.05 in 2014 and missing analysts' expectations of $1.11. During the quarter, Exxon distributed $4.1 billion to shareholders through dividends and share purchases.
"Our quarterly results reflect the disparate impacts of the current commodity price environment, but also demonstrate the strength of our sound operations, superior project execution capabilities, as well as continued discipline in capital and expense management," said Chairman and CEO Rex Tillerson in a statement.
Exxon is a dividend aristocrat, meaning it has increased dividend payouts for 25 consecutive years. It has already upped its payout in 2015, boosting it to 73 cents from 69 cents in the second quarter.
Royal Dutch Shell
Royal Dutch Shell (RDS.A) is making deep cuts to revamp its finances, but it is keeping its dividend around.
On July 30, it announced a quarterly payout of 94 cents per American depositary share. The same day, the company said it would cut about 6,500 jobs and reduce capital expenditure plans for 2015 to $30 billion.
"We have to be resilient in a world where oil prices remain low for some time, whilst keeping an eye on recovery," said CEO Ben van Beurden in a statement. We're taking a prudent approach, pulling on powerful financial levers to manage through this downturn, always making sure we have the capacity to pay attractive dividends for shareholders."
Shell also announced second quarter numbers on July 31, including earnings of $3.8 billion, compared with $6.1 billion the same period the year before.
The Canada-based energy company reported second-quarter earnings on July 30, and its numbers -- all of which were reported in Canadian dollars -- were strong. Earnings for the period were C$906 million, or 63 Canadian cents per common share), compared with C$1.1 billion, or 77 Canadian cents per common share, last year. Analysts expected earnings per share of 42 Canadian cents.
"Suncor generated strong cash flows in excess of $2.1 billion during the second quarter of 2015, more than enough to fund our capital requirements and our dividend," said Steve Williams, president and CEO, in a statement. "As a result, we are returning more value to our shareholders by increasing our dividend and renewing our share buyback program."
Suncor increased its dividend to 29 Canadian cents per common share.
This article is commentary by an independent contributor. At the time of publication, the author held a position in Exxon.