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U.S. energy behemoth Exxon Mobil Corp. (XOM - Analyst Report) has canceled its exploration plans in of South Sudan, according to a recent Bloomberg report. The company did not renew its joint exploration plans with French integrated oil and gas company TOTAL S.A. (TOT - Analyst Report) in the civil war torn nation.

Bloomberg reported that the energy duo had previously planned to negotiate for joint-exploration over parts of a 46,300 square-mile concession in the Jonglei state of South Sudan. The French energy giant which held the Block B concession in Jonglei state, near South Sudan’s eastern border, however, has not yet exited from the picture. The ongoing civil war has seen a major exodus of other energy players like China National Petroleum Corp. and India’s Oil & Natural Gas Corp.

Exxon Mobil is the world’s largest publicly traded oil company, engaged in oil and natural gas exploration and production, petroleum products refining and marketing, chemicals manufacture, and other energy-related businesses. Approximately four-fifth of Exxon Mobil’s earnings come from its operations outside the U.S.

Exxon Mobil is one of the world’s best-run integrated oil companies given its track record of superior returns on capital employed. The energy giant has long been a core holding for investors seeking a defensive name with continued dividend growth. Exxon Mobil is fairly active in its investment program. The company plans to spend about $185 billion over the next five years, up 29% from the last five-year period.

Exxon Mobil’s strength lies in its balanced operations, strong financial flexibility, steady improvement in efficiency and cost control. The company’s efforts to build an unconventional resource portfolio both in North America and overseas are aimed at increasing production through a wider exposure to large energy resources with a long reserve life and low field declines. However, we are skeptical about the company’s near-term performance due to its muddled refining fortunes.

Exxon Mobil holds a Zacks Rank #3 (Hold). However, in the near term, stocks like Sunoco Logistics Partners L.P. (SXL - Analyst Report) and Western Gas Equity Partners, LP (WGP - Snapshot Report) with a Zacks Rank #1 (Strong Buy) are expected to outperform the market.
 

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