And despite crude prices falling 46% in 2014, investors in BP (BP) - Get BP p.l.c. Sponsored ADR Report and Exxon Mobil (XOM) - Get Exxon Mobil Corporation Report hoping for a rebound should think again. Their respective bets on Russia have made them poor contrarian plays.
The two major oil benchmarks are still on the decline. Brent crude has reached $55.58, down 1.5%, while West Texas Intermediate is down 2% to $51.64 -- both losing more than 50% of this value since peaking in the middle of 2014. And industry experts aren't ready to predict when or where the price of oil will bottom. And that's not good for either BP and Exxon.
What's more, with OPEC (Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries) maintaining its stance of "letting the market fix itself," and unwilling to cut output, energy investors risk catching a falling knife.
BP and Exxon saw their share prices decline last year by 20% and 7%, respectively, trailing both the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJI) and the S&P 500 (SPX) , which gained 7.52% and 11.39%, respectively. Take a look at the chart.
Both energy giants have been hurt by their exposure to Russia, whose oil output averaged 10.58 million barrels per day, climbing 0.7% in 2014 -- the country's highest output since the end of the Soviet Union 24 years ago.
BP, which has a 19.75% stake in Russian integrated oil companyRosneft (RNFTF) , stands to lose hundreds of millions of dollars in earnings and dividend income, according to the Financial Times. These issues, along with the decline in the Russian ruble makes BP's fourth-quarter results, due out Feb. 3, shakier than they already might have been.
This is because, in the first nine months of BP's fiscal 2014 financial performance, Rosneft accounts for roughly one-third of BP's total oil and gas output. All told, BP's Russian bet hasn't paid off. And it may be a while before things get better.
Exxon is also tied to Rosneft ever since both companies struck a deal to explore Russia's Arctic waters in 2011. It was supposed to be Exxon's best long-term option to grow production and replenish what it pumps.
Because of U.S. and European imposed sanctions, the Arctic remains relatively undeveloped, hurting Exxon's ability to recover exploration costs, which were estimated to exceed $3.2 billion. If not for a 1 billion-barrel discovery in the Kara Sea in September, Exxon and Rosneft would have little to show for their investments. Still, it's not enough.
In December, Exxon and Rosneft terminated contracts of five service vessels that were contracted for the Arctic. Determined to not let sanctions hurt it plans, Rosneft said it will come up with a strategy to explore the Arctic without Exxon's involvement.
Kirill Molodtsov, Russia's Deputy Energy Minister said Gazprom, Russia's largest energy company, has rigs capable of working in the Kara Sea beginning in April. But this won't help Exxon, which will report fourth-quarter and full-year earnings on Jan. 28.
Like PB, Exxon's revenue and earnings results will be hurt by weak oil prices and the decline in the ruble. What will make Exxon's results gloomier will be the effect of the cost associated with developing and exploring the Arctic -- money that Exxon may have thrown away.
TheStreet Ratings team rates EXXON MOBIL CORP as a Buy with a ratings score of B. TheStreet Ratings Team has this to say about their recommendation:
"We rate EXXON MOBIL CORP (XOM) a BUY. This is driven by multiple strengths, which we believe should have a greater impact than any weaknesses, and should give investors a better performance opportunity than most stocks we cover. The company's strengths can be seen in multiple areas, such as its attractive valuation levels, largely solid financial position with reasonable debt levels by most measures, growth in earnings per share and increase in net income. We feel these strengths outweigh the fact that the company shows weak operating cash flow."
You can view the full analysis from the report here: XOM Ratings Report
This article is commentary by an independent contributor. At the time of publication, the author held no position in the stocks mentioned.