Production is back on the rise, reaching 3.8 million barrels per day at the end of the fourth quarter. This performance validates Exxon's decision to focus its exploration and production investments on two geographies in particular - the Texas Permian Basin and Guyana.
The group will generate a cash profit of $37.5 billion in 2023, which it will return almost in full to its shareholders via $18 billion in share buybacks and $15 billion in dividends. Note that these share buybacks were carried out at an average of x11-x12 earnings, half that of the SP500.
Taken together, Exxon and Chevron - which together account for 7% of the world's oil and gas production - returned nearly $60 billion to their shareholders in 2023. In terms of return of capital, Exxon ranks fourth in the SP500 behind Apple, Alphabet and Microsoft.
This hardly seems to impress the market, which clearly continues to regard these results as a top-of-the-cycle performance. It's true that in 2023, Exxon's profit and profitability are well above their ten-year average, i.e. smoothed over the cycle.
In terms of profitability, Exxon traditionally delivers the best performance among the Western majors, albeit behind Norway's Equinor - a little "out of its league" given its particular situation - and on a par with Total. Quite a feat for the French group, considering that it is the only one of its peers not to operate any fields in its home country.