Business

Occidental Petroleum Guts Dividend to 42-12 months Low of a Penny

(Bloomberg) — Occidental Petroleum Corp. cut its quarterly dividend by 91% to the lowest since at least the 1970s amid the pandemic-driven collapse in energy demand that has strained the oil explorer’s ability to shoulder its debt.

Occidental shareholders will receive a penny per share on July 15, the Houston-based company said in a statement Friday. The company has been reeling in dividends since March, when it trimmed the payout to 11 cents from 79 cents.

The surprise cut came the same day Chief Executive Vicki Hollub and the rest of the board of directors won re-election at Occidental’s annual shareholders’ meeting. The dividend move will save the company about $360 million a year.

Hollub has weathered extreme pressure from shareholders ever since outbidding Chevron Corp. to win the purchase of Anadarko Petroleum Corp. last year. The deal saddled Occidental with some $40 billion of debt that was looking hard to pay off even before Covid-19 wiped out global oil demand, sending crude prices to record lows.

The company has gone from being a steady, diversified oil producer to a debt-laden, shale-focused driller that now has a market value of just $12.3 billion, less than a third of the price it paid for Anadarko. Its credit rating was downgraded to junk in March.

Hollub fended off a shareholder revolt by making peace with the company’s second-largest shareholder, billionaire Carl Icahn, ending a nine-month public battle that included personal barbs against the CEO. However, it came at a cost. Hollub and her fellow directors agreed to cede some control by putting nominees of the activist investor on the board.

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(Updates with directors’ re-election in third paragraph.)

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