Exxon Mobil Corp on Thursday, October 30, 2020, announced that it will reduce its global workforce by 15% by the end of 2022 – an unprecedented culling by North America’s biggest oil explorer, as the coronavirus pandemic hits energy demand, prices, and struggles to preserve dividends.
The job cuts are expected to include 1,900 U.S. jobs – mostly in Houston, the headquarters for its US oil and gas businesses – as well as layoffs previously announced in Europe and Australia and reductions in the number of contractors, some of which have already taken place.
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This was disclosed in a statement that was released by the energy giant on Thursday, October 30, 2020.
The staff reduction is part of the latest effort by the Chief Executive Officer, Darren Woods, to curtail spending and halt the worst string of quarterly losses since Exxon assumed its modern form with the 1999 takeover of Mobil Corp.
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What you should know
Exxon and other oil producers have been slashing costs due to a collapse in oil demand and prices, as well as ill-timed bets on new projects. The Big Oil rivals of Exxon are also cutting thousands of jobs in response to the pandemic-induced demand slump. BP Plc plans to slash 10,000 jobs, Royal Dutch Shell Plc will cut as many as 9,000 roles, and Chevron Corp. has announced around 6,000 reductions.
Norton said that Exxon’s workforce stood at about 88,000 people, including 75,000 in-house employees and about 13,000 contractors as of year-end 2019.
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Exxon’s job cut is a sign of its weakened financial position compared to its former status as the S&P 500 Index’s biggest company less than a decade ago, and a profit powerhouse used to ride out oil-price cycles.
This year’s downturn has been particularly damaging because it also affected refining, usually a cushion in times of low oil prices. Also, it came at a time when Exxon was already increasing borrowing to fund a large expansion program. The company was forced to retreat on these plans in April, reducing capital spending by $10 billion and delaying or scaling back most of the major projects.
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The stock has plunged more than 50% this year. Its dividend yield is now more than 10%, indicating that investors are anticipating a cut. Exxon maintained the quarterly payout on Wednesday and is expected to post its third consecutive quarterly loss when it reports earnings tomorrow.
What they are saying
The Company in its statement said, “These actions will improve the company’s long-term cost competitiveness and ensure the company manages through the current unprecedented market conditions.’’
Exxon’s spokesman, Casey Norton, through an email said that the total reduction means the company will reduce its workforce by about 14,000 people, split between employees and contractors from year-end 2019 levels. The cuts will come through attrition, targeted redundancy programs in 2021, and scaled-back hiring in some countries.
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What this means
Another set of job losses in the oil sector in Nigeria is looming. Nigeria is one of Exxon’s biggest operational bases in oil and gas exploration and production globally. Also, this is another setback after Shell announced 9,000 job cuts globally, which includes Nigeria, and the announcement by Chevron that it plans to reduce its staff strength in Nigeria by 25%.