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Marathon (MRO) Beats on Q1 Earnings, Backs Shareholder Returns

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Marathon Oil Corporation (MRO - Free Report) reported first-quarter 2022 adjusted net income per share of $1.02, beating the Zacks Consensus Estimate of 98 cents and improving from the year-ago period’s profit of 21 cents.

Marathon Oil’s bottom line was favorably impacted by stronger liquid realizations and solid domestic production.

Marathon Oil reported revenues of $1.8 billion that jumped from the year-ago sales of $1.1 billion but came 3.1% below the consensus mark, primarily due to a fall in U.S. natural gas prices.

In good news for investors, the company is using the excess cash from a supportive environment to reward them with dividends and buybacks. As part of that, MRO has executed $1.6 billion of share repurchases since October and recently announced a dividend hike for the fifth time in as many quarters to 8 cents. Further planning to reward its shareholders, MRO announced the expansion of its buyback program to  $2.5 billion.

Marathon Oil Corporation Price, Consensus and EPS Surprise

Marathon Oil Corporation Price, Consensus and EPS Surprise

Marathon Oil Corporation price-consensus-eps-surprise-chart | Marathon Oil Corporation Quote

 

Segmental Performance

This Texas-based energy explorer’s total net production (from U.S. and International units) in the quarter under review came in at 345,000 barrels of oil equivalent per day (BOE/d), the same as the year-ago period.

U.S. E&P: This U.S. upstream unit reported an income of $661 million, surging from $212 million in the year-ago period due to stronger liquids realizations and output.

Marathon Oil’s average realized liquids prices (crude oil and condensate) of $94.43 per barrel were significantly above the year-earlier level of $55.38. Natural gas liquids average price realizations increased 55.9% to $37.32 a barrel. However, average realized natural gas prices were down 24.1% year over year to $4.79 per thousand cubic feet.

Meanwhile, production costs were $5.59 per BOE, representing a 25.3% year-over-year rise.

Net production of 281,000 BOE/d increased from 276,000 BOE/d in first-quarter 2021. Total U.S. output comprised 56% oil or 158,000 barrels per day (bpd).

Higher year-over-year production, especially from Eagle Ford and Bakken buoyed the company’s quarterly performance. The Eagle Ford region recorded production of 80,000 BOE/d, up 3.9% from the level in first-quarter 2021, while output from Bakken was 118,000 BOE/d compared with 112,000 BOE/d in the year-ago quarter. On a somewhat disappointing note, Oklahoma output came in at 52,000 BOE/d, reflecting a 1,000 BOE/d fall from the year-ago level.

International E&P: The segment, which explores and produces oil and gas in Equatorial Guinea, reported earnings of $115 million compared with $50 million in the year-ago period due to improvement in liquids prices.

Marathon Oil reported production available for sale of 64,000 BOE/d, down from 69,000 Boe/d in first-quarter 2021.

Marathon Oil’s average realized liquids prices (crude oil and condensate) of $59.63 per barrel reflected a 35.1% jump from the year-earlier quarter. Natural gas and natural gas liquids’ average price realizations came in at 24 cents per thousand cubic feet and $1 a barrel, respectively – the same as the corresponding period of 2021.

Financial Position

Total costs in the quarter were $948 million, $6 million lower than the prior-year period. Marathon Oil reported an operating cash flow of $1.3 billion for the first quarter, up significantly from $637 million a year ago.

As of Mar 31, it had cash and cash equivalents worth $681 million and long-term debt of 3.9 billion. The debt-to-capitalization ratio of the company was 25.6.

Marathon Oil spent $348 million in capital and exploratory expenditures during the quarter and raked in $940 million of free cash flow.

2022 Guidance

Marathon Oil has set the capital budget at $1.3 billion for this year, up from $1.2 billion it projected previously to reflect inflation adjustments. Meanwhile, the company continues to target shareholder returns over production growth. The Zacks Rank #2 (Buy) company is targeting production in the range of 340,000 BOE/d to 350,000 BOE/d – essentially unchanged from the last year. Further, Marathon Oil expects oil volumes in the band of 168,000-176,000 barrels per day. Assuming $60 WTI, Marathon Oil expects to return a minimum of 40% of its cash flow from operations.

You can see the complete list of today’s Zacks #1 Rank stocks here.

Some Key E&P Earnings

Apart from MRO, supportive industry fundamentals and the emerging multi-year commodity price upcycle have led to a good earnings season for some other exploration and production companies as well.

ConocoPhillips (COP - Free Report) reported first-quarter adjusted earnings per share of $3.27, beating the Zacks Consensus Estimate of $3.24. Further, COP’s bottom line significantly improved from the prior-year quarter’s 69 cents per share. One of the world’s largest independent oil and gas producers based in Houston, TX, ConocoPhillips’ strong quarterly results have been aided by increased oil-equivalent production volumes and realized commodity prices.

ConocoPhillips revised higher its expected 2022 return of capital to shareholders. The new guidance is $10 billion versus the prior projection of $8 billion. COP’s incremental returns to stockholders will get distributed through share repurchases and variable return of cash tiers.

Another upstream giant EOG Resources (EOG - Free Report) reported first-quarter adjusted earnings per share of $4.00, beating the Zacks Consensus Estimate of $3.69. The bottom line significantly improved from the year-ago quarter’s earnings of $1.62. EOG’s strong earnings were driven by higher oil equivalent production and commodity prices.

For the quarter under review, EOG Resources’ volumes increased 13.4% year over year to 883,300 BOE/d on higher U.S. output. Committed to shareholder returns, EOG announced a special dividend of $1.80 per share.

Finally, we have Pioneer Natural Resources Company (PXD - Free Report) , which reported first-quarter earnings of $7.74 per share (excluding one-time items), beating the Zacks Consensus Estimate of $7.32. The bottom line surged from the year-ago quarter’s profit of $1.77 per share. PXD’s robust bottom line can be attributed to higher oil-equivalent production volumes and commodity price realizations.

For the second quarter, Pioneer Natural announced a dividend payment of $7.38 per share of common stock, which includes a variable dividend of $6.60 per share and a base dividend of 78 cents. This suggests a 95.2% increase from the prior dividend of $3.78 per share.