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Hess trims spending guidance

U.S. company says low oil prices mean further cost reductions possible.
By Daniel J. Graeber Follow @dan_graeber Contact the Author   |   Jan. 26, 2016 at 8:46 AM
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NEW YORK, Jan. 26 (UPI) -- U.S. upstream player Hess Corp. said it was cutting planned spending for exploration and production for the year by 20 percent to $2.4 billion.

Hess in October outlined a 2016 spending plan of between $2.9 billion and $3.1 billion. The company said Tuesday it revised its full-year guidance lower to $2.4 billion, 40 percent below last year's spending levels.

"In response to the current low oil price environment, we have significantly decreased our 2016 capital and exploratory expenditures and we plan to reduce activity at all of our producing assets," President and chief operating officer Greg Hill said in a statement. "Moreover, we will continue to pursue further cost reductions and efficiency gains across our portfolio."

Hess reported a net loss of $279 million for the third quarter of the year as crude oil prices continued their steady decline. The upstream sector accounted for the bulk of the losses in the third quarter. The company plans to discuss fourth quarter 2015 results Wednesday.

Fitch Ratings last week maintained the credit rating for Hess at BBB, but revised its outlook from stable to negative. The ratings agency said it was basing its decision on the loss of diversification options that resulted from sales in the downstream, or refining, sector and the reduction in size of the company's upstream, or production, footprint.

About 20 percent of the 2016 spending for Hess will focus on exploration and appraisal activities.

Despite the cut in spending, the company said it was taking the long view and positioning itself to recover once the energy market rebounds. Most analysts expect a balance between supply and demand will return to help with market recovery by early 2017.

Hess said total net production for the year, including output from the lucrative Bakken shale basin in North Dakota, will average between 330,000 and 350,000 barrels of oil equivalent per day, unchanged from its previous outlook from October.

Hess (NYSE: HES ) shares plummeted more than 10 percent overnight, but were up about 0.7 percent in pre-market movements Tuesday.

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