(Bloomberg) — Chevron Corp. plans to buy back $75 billion in shares and increase dividend payouts after a year of record profits that has drawn angry condemnation from politicians around the world as rising energy prices squeeze consumers.
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The stock repurchase program will kick in on April 1 and triple the size of the previous authorization unveiled in early 2019, the company said in a statement on Wednesday. The program is worth nearly a quarter of the company’s market value and five times its current level of annual buybacks.
Although Chevron’s plan pales in comparison to the $89 billion that Apple Inc set aside for buybacks last year, it is likely to inflame critics in the White House and Congress who have accused the oil industry of profiting from war after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. .
U.S. President Joe Biden has been among those pushing oil explorers to plow into more drilling to boost crude supplies, instead of devoting cash to shareholder-friendly initiatives like dividends and buybacks. Chevron rose 3.9 percent in after-hours trading.
The company will also pay investors a $1.51-per-share dividend on March 10, a 6.3% increase from the previous quarter.
Although energy prices have rebounded since the early stages of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, analysts expect profits at U.S. oil companies to remain strong as they rein in capital spending, unlike in previous boom cycles. Instead, the windfall is used to repay debt and increase returns to investors.
Chevron increased share buybacks several times last year as oil prices rose, but Chief Financial Officer Pierre Breber has vowed to maintain the buyback rate even as commodity prices recover. With the net-debt ratio currently below the company’s target range, Chevron is willing to let borrowing levels rise to buy back shares if necessary, Breber said last year.
The company announced last year that capital spending for 2023 would be at the top end of its guidance range at $17 billion. Chevron is scheduled to report fourth-quarter results on Jan. 27.
–With assistance from Tom Contiliano.
(Updates with possible political consequences in first paragraph.)
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