EOG Resources beats profit estimates, hikes dividend by 10%

FILE PHOTO: The logo of U.S. oil and gas company EOG Resources is seen in its office in Chongqing, China December 15, 2017. REUTERS/Chen Aizhu

(Reuters) - Oil and gas producer EOG Resources Inc on Thursday boosted its annual dividend by 10% after its fourth-quarter adjusted profit came in well above expectations, helped by cost cuts and a recent recovery in commodity prices.

Easing of COVID-19 related restrictions has sparked optimism among shale producers after they endured a year of destruction in crude prices and demand. U.S. crude rose to $63.53 on Thursday, its highest since May 2019.

Despite the higher commodity prices, EOG forecast its crude oil output this year between 434,000 barrels per day (bpd) and 446,000 bpd, about flat compared to the fourth-quarter rate of 444,800 bpd.

EOG’s forecast of keeping production flat matches rivals like Diamondback Energy Inc and Occidental Petroleum Corp and highlights a recurring theme in shale that calls for prioritizing balance sheet cleanups above output growth.

“The 2021 capital plan is consistent with the strategy we have followed over the last year of not growing production in an oversupplied market,” EOG Chief Executive Officer Bill Thomas said in a statement.

The Houston-based company’s adjusted net income of 71 cents per share, for the quarter ended Dec. 31, beat analysts’ estimates of 35 cents according to Refinitiv IBES.

However, despite the strong profit beat and annual dividend hike to $1.65, EOG’s shares dropped 3% in extended trading.

Stewart Glickman, energy equity analyst at CFRA research said he believes the only thing aggravating markets would be EOG’s spending forecast of $3.7 billion to $4.1 billion, which is above last year’s $3.5 billion level.

EOG’s forecast contrasts research firm Third Bridge’s expectations of a “tepid response” from U.S. producers, said Peter McNally, the firm’s global sector lead for industrials Materials and Energy at research.

Reporting by Shariq Khan and Rithika Krishna in Bengaluru; Editing by Shailesh Kuber