ConocoPhillips to Spend Less in 2015 Amid Crude Plung

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ConocoPhillips said it would cut its 2015 capital budget by 20 percent, or about $3 billion, compared with this year, marking the biggest spending cut by a U.S. oil and gas company in dollar terms as global oil prices hit five-year lows.

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Shares of the company, which set a budget of $13.5 billion, fell 2.5 percent in early trading.

ConocoPhillips said it would "defer significant investment" on less developed projects in the Montney and Duvernay fields in Canada, the Permian Basin in Texas and the Niobrara shale field, which extends over Colorado, Wyoming, Nebraska and Kansas.

"The announced budget is well below our expectations of $15 billion," Simmons & Co analysts wrote in a note.

Global oil and gas projects worth more than $150 billion are likely to be put on hold next year, according to data from Norwegian consultancy Rystad Energy.

ConocoPhillips, which is focusing on the Eagle Ford shale in Texas and North Dakota's Bakken shale, said it will also spend less on major projects, many of which are nearing completion.

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Despite lower investment, the company expects its production from fields outside of Libya to rise by 3 percent in 2015. ConocoPhillips forecast 3 to 5 percent growth in October.

"This plan demonstrates our focus on cash-flow neutrality and a competitive dividend, while maintaining our financial strength," Chief Executive Ryan Lance said.

Several oil producers have set lower budgets for 2015, following a 42 percent drop in global crude prices since June.

Tepid demand growth and forecasts that global oversupply would keep building until next year because of OPEC's refusal to reduce output are weighing on oil prices.

ConocoPhillips shares were down at $66.08 on the New York Stock Exchange. Up to Friday close, they had fallen 16 percent in the past six months due to the oil price slide.

Brent crude oil fell below $67 per barrel to a new five-year low earlier in the day. (Reporting by Swetha Gopinath in Bengaluru; Editing by Don Sebastian)