(Bloomberg) — Occidental Petroleum Corp. may redeem Berkshire Hathaway Inc.’s preferred stock this year as the oil giant prioritizes share buybacks over production growth, said Chief Executive Officer Vicki Hollub.
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“There won’t be significant growth from us because there’s still a lot more value to be gained for us by continuing to focus on delivering value to shareholders through share repurchases,” Hollub said during an interview with Bloomberg TV at the Smead Investor Oasis conference in Scottsdale, Arizona. “A big focus for us in 2023 is repurchasing our common and potentially the preferred.”
Warren Buffett’s Berkshire bought $10 billion of preferred stock in Occidental during the driller’s 2019 takeover of Anadarko Petroleum. Berkshire is also the biggest owner of Occidental common stock with a 21% stake, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.
Occidental climbed 0.5% to $61.53 a share at 1:31 p.m. in New York even as the S&P 500 Energy Index dropped 0.6%.
The decision by Occidental, one of the biggest shale oil producers, to focus on buybacks rather than production growth is another sign that US output is unlikely to accelerate much this year, despite companies being flush with cash. In recent days, Exxon Mobil Corp. and Chevron Corp. have both said shale growth will slow this year. Most publicly traded producers, who have indicated growth will likely stand below 5% annually, are due to report earnings and announce their capital spending plans later this month.
Investors will scrutinize capital budgets, wary of producers returning to the double-digit growth rates that consumed cash and eroded returns for much of the 2010s. Cost inflation means they will likely increase substantially from last year but investors want to make sure they don’t come at the expense of buybacks and dividends. ConocoPhillips plunged last week after its spending plans came in ahead of expectations.
Cost inflation in the US Permian Basin oil field has slowed to about 10-15% from almost 20% last year, Hollub said in the interview. Wages and a tight labor market are among the main drivers, she noted.
(Updates with shares in fourth paragraph, context from fifth.)
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