New Exxon CEO says company will boost production

Darren Woods
Exxon Mobil Corporation Chairman & CEO Darren Woods, third from left, joins the applause during opening bell ceremonies at the New York Stock Exchange, Wednesday, March 1, 2017. Woods succeeded Rex Tillerson, following Tillerson's nomination by President Donald Trump to be the next United States Secretary of State. (AP Photo/Richard Drew)

NEW YORK (AP) — Exxon’s new CEO says the company will increase production and has a mix of projects to handle any level of oil and gas prices.

Darren Woods also said Tuesday at a meeting with investors that Exxon Mobil Corp. is committed to increase its dividend and will buy back shares when the company has extra cash.

Woods rose to Exxon’s top job two months ago after his predecessor, Rex Tillerson, was tapped by then-President-elect Donald Trump to become secretary of state. The investor meeting is Woods’ first public event as CEO.

Wall Street is concerned about slow growth and falling profits at Exxon. To allay those concerns, Woods said the company will boost production 2 percent a year from 2016 through 2020.

Woods said drilling in Texas’ Permian Basin and in North Dakota will help boost short-term production, while big projects around the world will add to long-term growth.

By the end of 2018, Exxon expects to start production from five major projects in Russia, Canada, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar and Angola.

Cash from those projects and others “will underpin our commitment a reliable and growing dividend,” Woods said. He added that Exxon will buy back shares “when needed to return excess liquidity to the shareholders.”

Investors like share buybacks because they make existing stock more valuable. Exxon stopped buybacks last year after a long slide in oil prices sapped profits.

Exxon is under investigation for what it knew and disclosed about the link between climate change and burning fossil fuels. Woods sounded very much like his predecessor Tillerson in acknowledging that climate change is a problem but that oil and gas will continue to be an important part of the energy mix.

Woods began the day by ringing the opening bell at the New York Stock Exchange, where the investor meeting was taking place.

Shares in Exxon, which is based in Irving, Texas, were up $1.82, or 2.2 percent, to $83.14 in afternoon trading.