THE ROAD TO EXXON’S LONG-AWAITED STOCK BUYBACKS IS PAVED WITH BILLIONS IN ASSET SALES

Exxon expects to restart its share buyback program once $15 billion of asset sales gets under way, CEO Darren Woods says.
Exxon is holding its fire even as its peers are once again enriching shareholders by purchasing their own stock.
Woods says the company’s priorities are reinvesting to replenish its reserves and growing its dividend.
Exxon Mobil’s plan to sell billions of dollars in assets may pave the way for the company to return cash to stockholders through a long-awaited share buyback program, says Chairman and CEO Darren Woods.

On Wednesday, the energy giant forecast it could generate $15 billion in cash through 2025 by selling assets. Woods say the company expects some of that cash will go towards repurchasing stock from shareholders.

But today, the company’s main priority is reinvesting in its business and replenishing its oil and natural gas reserves.

“We’ve got a balance sheet that allows us to continue to do that, and so we’ve looked at our balance sheet, our objectives to grow dividends … and to maintain a strong balance sheet,” he said in an interview with CNBC’s Becky Quick.

“We can do all that in a pretty wide range of price environments, so the additional money coming in from divestments we can use for buybacks.”
Exxon is reviewing its global portfolio for divestment opportunities, and will prune assets that don’t fit its strategic priorities, says Woods. The company will also look for tactical opportunities to offload assets at good value, he added.

But it remains unclear when the divestments will give way to share repurchases, and some investors appear to be growing impatient. Exxon saw its stock price slump on Wednesday, despite the company issuing improved guidance for profits and cash flow during its annual investor day.

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