BUSINESS

Chevron is still going strong after 135 years

Chevron, California's biggest oil producer, is still going strong after 135 years

At 135 years and counting, the oil company now known as Chevron Corp. is one of California's oldest survival stories.

Chevron traces its history to 1879 when Pacific Coast Oil Co. was founded. It was bought, in 1900, by the vast industrial empire of the Standard Oil Co. & Trust, which once controlled almost all oil production, processing, marketing and transportation in the United States.

It would emerge, 11 years later, with the breakup of the empire, when Standard Oil of California became an independent company.

Although it bought one of the other Standard Oil companies in 1961, its surge didn't begin until the 20-year period of oil industry consolidation that began in the 1980s.

In 1984, it bought Gulf Corp. for $13.3 billion, then the largest corporate deal in history, and took on the name Chevron.

In 2001, it took the lead in a merger with Texaco, changing its name to Chevron Texaco Corp. By the time it acquired Unocal Corp. in 2005, it had dropped the Texaco name.

Chevron, based in San Ramon, runs California's two largest oil refineries, in El Segundo and Richmond. It also claims the mantle of being California's biggest oil producer.

In 2013, its revenue topped those of Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway Inc., Apple Inc. and General Motors Co., trailing only retailer Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and rival Exxon Mobil Corp.

The latest

Chevron subsidiary, Chevron Canada Limited, reached agreement this month to sell 30% of its interest in its Duvernay shale assets in Alberta to Kuwait's state-owned oil company for $1.5 billion.

In August, Chevron reported $57.9 billion in revenue for the second quarter, which ended June 30. That was up from $57.4 billion a year earlier. Net income rose to $5.7 billion from $5.4 billion a year earlier.

Accomplishments

Chevron is the world's third-largest publicly traded energy company in market capitalization, behind Exxon Mobil and Royal Dutch Shell.

"Our financial priorities remain unchanged, and we continue to reward shareholders with competitive distributions," Patricia E. Yarrington, Chevron's chief financial officer, said in a recent conference call with analysts.

Chevron said its worldwide proven reserves of oil and natural gas amount to the equivalent of more than 11 billion barrels and production of about 2.6 million barrels a day. The company said it has 1.9 million barrels a day of refining capacity and maintains 25,700 service stations around the world under the brands Chevron, Texaco and CalTex.

Challenges

Oil industry operations carry large-scale risks. In August 2012, 19 workers escaped serious injury during a fire at Chevron's Richmond refinery. About 15,000 people in the surrounding communities sought medical attention during and after the incident.

Buying another oil company's assets also means taking on legal battles. Chevron continues to defend itself in a long-running legal case in Ecuador alleging environmental and social harm. Chevron inherited the case when it acquired Texaco.

Slow economies are a constant threat to earnings. U.S. oil prices on the New York Mercantile Exchange recently hit some of their lowest levels since late 2012.

International oil prices, which are based on North Sea Brent crude, recently fell below $90 a barrel for the first time in more than two years.

Global demand for oil has also been declining at a time of surging crude production in the United States, according to the U.S. Energy Department.

Analysts

Of 24 analysts that regularly cover Chevron, six rate it as a strong buy. Another six consider it a buy. Ten suggest holding the stock. Two analysts rate it as underperform.

Some analysts are hedging their bets on Chevron because of lower oil prices, high crude supplies and weak global economic growth.

Fadel Gheit, senior energy analyst for Oppenheimer & Co., rates Chevron as "outperform," because of its "improving operating and financial outlook."

Gheit added that Chevron is less dependent than its peers on low-price natural gas holdings.

ron.white@latimes.com

Twitter: @RonWLATimes

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