By Anne Steele
Chevron Corp. swung to a profit in the latest quarter as the company slashed expenses amid a tough pricing environment.
Still, earnings came in sharply below estimates, and shares of the No. 2 energy company in the U.S. fell 2.9% premarket to $113.13.
Chief Executive John Watson said results reflect the low oil and gas prices during the year.
"We responded aggressively to those conditions, cutting capital and operating expenses by $14 billion." He added that the company should show improved earnings and be cash-flow-balanced in 2017 through continued tight spending and cost control as well as additional revenue from expected production growth.
Accordingly, the company increased its 2016 annual dividend payout for the 29th consecutive year. The company raised its dividend payment for the fourth quarter by a penny, or 0.9%, to $1.08.
During the latest quarter, the company's average sales price per barrel of crude oil and natural gas liquids was $40, up from $35 in the year-ago period.
Pressured by the prolonged swoon in oil prices cutting into profitability, the San Ramon, Calif.-based company has looked to cut costs. Chevron has said it would cut about 8,000 jobs -- up to 12% of its workforce -- and slash billions of dollars from its capital-spending budget to deal with market conditions.
In all for the December period, Chevron reported a profit of $415 million, or 22 cents a share, compared with a loss of $588 million, or 31 cents a share, the year before, and well below the 64 cents analysts polled by Thomson Reuters were looking for.
But revenue climbed 7.7% to $31.5 billion, topping analyst estimates for $30.3 billion.
Profit in Chevron's downstream, or refining, operations plunged 65% to $357 million in the latest quarter.
Upstream operations, which include exploration and drilling, meanwhile, in the U.S., swung to a $121 million profit from a $1.95 billion loss a year earlier, mostly owing to lower depreciation, exploration and operating expenses, and higher crude oil and natural gas realizations.
Rival Exxon Mobil Corp., the largest U.S. oil company, is set to report earnings next week.