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Chevron CEO does not rule out consolidation among oil majors

FILE PHOTO: Michael Wirth, chairman and CEO of Chevron Corp speaks at 2021 Milken Institute Global conference

By Sabrina Valle

HOUSTON (Reuters) - Chevron Corp. Chief Executive Michael Wirth on Tuesday said a consolidation between the five top Western oil producers remains a possibility but would face regulatory hurdles.

Soaring stock prices and cash levels at oil-focused U.S. energy majors has driven Wall Street talk of potential deals for European oil producers. Citi analysts in January speculated Chevron or Exxon Mobil could acquire BP PLC, Shell PLC or TotalEnergies due to valuation differences.

"I never say never about anything," Wirth said in a media briefing following the company's annual business update for investors. "But it would not be simple to execute, just given the realities of getting something like that approved."

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Regulatory and government approvals make the process more complex than in the late 1990s when the greater number of oil companies and depressed shares prices triggered consolidation that led a handful of supermajors.

"As you get down to fewer people who overlap, the regulatory challenges and government approvals, etc., gets a little bit more complex," Wirth said.

Chevron is not in a hurry for M&A in oil or renewable energy and remains committed to keeping a tight rein on spending even during periods of high energy prices and cash abundance, he said.

"Spending faster doesn't necessarily make opportunities better. It just means spending faster," Wirth said. "We will be patient."

(Reporting by Sabrina Valle)