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U.S. energy giant Chevron Corp. (CVX - Analyst Report) reported weak first quarter results on falling production and oil prices.

Earnings per share came in at $2.36, below the Zacks Consensus Estimate of $2.53 and deteriorated considerably from the year-ago adjusted profit of $3.18 per share.

The integrated supermajor’s quarterly revenue decreased 6.3% year over year to $53,265.0 million and was way below the Zacks Consensus Estimate of $66,446.0 million.

Segment Performance

Upstream: Chevron’s total production of crude oil and natural gas decreased by 2.2% from the year-earlier level to 2,588 thousand oil-equivalent barrels per day (MBOE/d). Contribution from project ramp-ups in the U.S., Angola and Nigeria were more than negated by normal field declines and weather-related downtime issues in Kazakhstan.

The U.S. output dipped 3.6% year over year, while Chevron’s international operations (accounting for 75% of the total) registered a 1.7% fall in volumes.

Losses on the production front were accompanied by lower liquids prices and skyrocketing exploration expenses, the net effect resulting in a 27.2% year-over-year decline in upstream earnings to $4,307.0 million.

However, despite the lower volumes for the quarter under consideration, Chevron’s production outlook remains one of the most robust in its peer group, with a number of major initiatives scheduled to come online during the next few years. Major start-ups during the last few months include the liquefied natural gas (LNG) project in Angola, deepwater Usan project in Nigeria, Caesar/Tonga project in the deepwater Gulf of Mexico, and the Chirag development in the Caspian Sea.

Amongst the major upcoming projects, Chevron’s Gorgon and Wheatstone natural gas initiatives in Australia are progressing well, while the Jack/St. Malo and Big Foot initiatives in the deepwater Gulf of Mexico remain on track for late 2014 and mid-2015 start-up, respectively.

Downstream: Chevron’s downstream segment achieved earnings of $710.0 million, slightly higher than the profit of $701.0 million last year. The results were positively influenced by improved profitability from U.S. on the back of higher refined product sales margins, lower operating expenses and lower turnaround activities.

However, decreased earnings from the international business dragged down the overall results to a large extent. Ex-U.S. profits were hampered by lower refinery margins and planned maintenance at the Star Petroleum Refining Company in Thailand.

Capital Expenditure, Balance Sheet & Share Repurchases

The second-largest U.S. oil company by market value after Exxon Mobil Corp. (XOM - Analyst Report) spent $9,431.0 million in capital expenditures during the quarter. Approximately 93% of the total outlays pertained to upstream projects.

As of Mar 31, 2014, the San Ramon, CA-based company had $15,612.0 million in cash and total debt of $23,054.0 million, with a debt-to-total capitalization ratio of about 13.3%. As part of the stock repurchase program, Chevron repurchased $1,250.0 million worth of shares in the first quarter.

Dividend Hiked

Recently, the company announced an 7.0% increase in its quarterly dividend to $1.07 per share, or $4.28 per share annualized. The dividend is payable on Jun 10 to shareholders of record on May 19, 2014.

Zacks Rank

Chevron – which signed an accord last month with Argentina’s YPF S.A. (YPF - Snapshot Report) to invest $1.6 billion in the South American country – currently carries a Zacks Rank #3 (Hold), implying that it is expected to perform in line with the broader U.S. equity market over the next one to three months. A better-ranked stock in the integrated energy space would be Brazil-based Braskem S.A. (BAK - Snapshot Report), which hold a Zacks Rank #2 (Buy).

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