(Bloomberg) — Chevron Corp. plans to buy back $75 billion of shares and increase dividend payouts after a year of record profits that evoked angry denunciations from politicians around the world as soaring energy prices squeezed consumers.
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The stock repurchase program will kick in April 1 and will be triple the size of the previous authorization unveiled in early 2019, the company said in a statement Wednesday. The program is equivalent to almost one-fourth of the company’s market value and five times the current level of annual buybacks.
Although Chevron’s plan pales in comparison to the $89 billion that Apple Inc. allocated to repurchases in the past year, it’s likely to incense critics in the White House and Congress who accused the oil industry of war profiteering after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine sent energy prices surging.
US President Joe Biden was among those who lambasted oil explorers for devoting cash to shareholder-friendly initiatives like dividends and buybacks instead of plowing it into more drilling that would swell crude supplies. Chevron rose as much as 3.9% in after-hours trading.
The company also will pay investors a $1.51-a-share dividend on March 10, a 6.3% increase from the previous quarter.
Even though energy prices have pulled back since the early phases of Russia’s initial attack on Ukraine, analysts expect US oil companies’ profits to stay strong because they have kept capital spending in check, unlike in previous boom cycles. Instead, the windfall has been used to pay back debt and increase investor returns.
Chevron raised share buybacks multiple times last year as oil prices rose, but Chief Financial Officer Pierre Breber has pledged to maintain the repurchase rate even as commodity prices pull back. With net-debt ratios currently below the company’s target range, Chevron is willing to let borrowing levels rise to keep buying back shares if needed, Breber said last year.
The company last year announced that capital spending for 2023 will be at the top end of its guidance range at $17 billion. Chevron is scheduled to report fourth-quarter results on Jan. 27.
–With assistance from Tom Contiliano.
(Updates with potential political consequences in first paragraph.)
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