The energy industry has gone through tough times in recent years, and even the sector's largest companies have felt the pinch. Occidental Petroleum (NYSE: OXY) isn't the biggest oil and natural gas producer in the market, but it has extensive worldwide operations in the U.S., the Middle East, and Latin America that helped it produce roughly 600,000 barrels of oil equivalent every day in 2017.
One thing that's been missing from Occidental's recent history is a stock split. After making its most recent move more than a decade ago, the energy company hasn't felt the need to make any further splits since then. Given the strategy that the company has followed and the changing way in which energy companies look at their share prices, it's entirely possible that Occidental might choose never to do another stock split.
Let's look more closely at Occidental's stock split history and what's happening with the company right now.
Occidental Petroleum's history of stock splits
Here are the dates and split ratios for the stock splits Occidental has done in the past:
Stock splits haven't been a high priority for Occidental Petroleum over its long history. For nearly 40 years, the company went without a split, largely because its share price never really justified it. The stock largely treaded water throughout the 1980s, 1990s, and early 2000s. Only the huge spike in oil prices to nearly $150 per barrel in the mid-2000s was sufficient to push Occidental into triple-digit territory, which prompted the company to do its two-for-one stock split in 2006.
After that, the oil market once again got choppy. Occidental stock kept soaring into 2007, but the financial crisis brought about a short commodity collapse that sent crude oil prices plunging. Subsequent returns to $100-plus oil helped Occidental shares briefly trade in triple digits once again, but that foray proved short-lived. When the most recent downward cycle in oil prices began in late 2014, the oil company began a decline that trimmed its stock by as much as 40%.
A spin instead of a split
Occidental hasn't done a stock split recently, but it has spun off one of its key assets. In 2014, Occidental distributed about 80% of its California oil and gas assets and operations into California Resources (NYSE: CRC), leading to the creation of a new publicly traded entity. Occidental held onto the remaining minority interest in California Resources for more than a year, but in early 2016, it distributed the remainder of its California Resources shares as a special dividend to Occidental shareholders.
The move enabled Occidental to concentrate on what it saw as its core assets while raising valuable capital through the spinoff process. The Permian Basin became a key focus area for the company, with then-newly installed CEO Vicki Hollub looking to boost Occidental's stake in the West Texas energy play. That strategy led to billions in spending to obtain acreage from sellers that included not only large groups of privately held entities, but also peer Hess (NYSE: HES). With enhanced oil recovery capabilities to capture oil and gas from areas that had once been thought played out, Occidental has sought to find ways to compete effectively in an environment of low crude prices.
Why Occidental might not do a stock split
The biggest reason not to expect an Occidental Petroleum stock split is that the company has made maintaining its dividend one of its highest priorities. Unlike many peers that slashed their payouts in order to preserve capital for operational expenses and potential acquisitions, Occidental has continued its trend of slow dividend growth. The stock currently has a yield of nearly 5%, and those payouts help to slow any share-price appreciation going forward, making it less likely that the stock will rise back to levels that would prompt another split.
Investors shouldn't confuse Occidental's lack of stock splits with business failure. By taking tough steps to preserve its business, Occidental Petroleum has built a strong foundation on which it should be able to grow as the energy industry keeps recovering in the years ahead.
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