CVX Sep 2021 70.000 call

OPR - OPR Delayed price. Currency in USD
0.00 (0.00%)
As of 6:39PM EDT. Market open.
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Previous close23.28
Expiry date2021-09-17
Day's range23.28 - 23.28
Contract rangeN/A
Open interest43

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  • Supreme Court Birth Control Case Will Be Back

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    (Bloomberg Opinion) -- The Little Sisters of the Poor, an order of Catholic nuns, have been fighting the contraceptive mandate of the Affordable Care Act since 2013. Today the Supreme Court gave them a victory — but not the final victory they sought, namely that they’re automatically entitled to an exemption from the ACA under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. Nonetheless, this ruling — along with other key decisions this term — demonstrates that the conservative majority of the court has definitively entered the era of religious exemptions.If the idea of the Little Sisters before the Supreme Court rings a bell, congratulations on the acuity of your memory. After President Barack Obama signed the ACA, his Department of Health and Human Services gave an exemption to the contraceptive mandate to certain religious organizations like the Little Sisters, while still ensuring contraceptive care would reach their employees.The way the exemptions worked was essentially that an organization seeking not to pay for its employees’ contraceptive care would submit a certificate to HHS explaining that it was a nonprofit religious organization with conscientious objection to contraception. The religious entity would then provide a copy of the certificate to its health insurer — which would then itself pay for the contraceptive care, not charging the religious employer.The Little Sisters objected that even this process violated their religious liberty under RFRA. The case went all the way to the Supreme Court, where the untimely death of Justice Antonin Scalia in February 2016 robbed them of what would almost certainly have been a win. Instead, in May of 2016, the justices (who presumably were deadlocked 4-4) tried ham-fistedly to order the Obama administration and the Little Sisters to work out a solution. Neither side was prepared to compromise in a way that would satisfy the other.The election of President Donald Trump led to staff changes at HHS, and in 2017 the department set new rules favorable to the Little Sisters. Under these rules, religious organizations like the Little Sisters are treated like houses of worship, with the effect that their health care providers don’t have to pay for contraceptive care for their employees at all.This time the primary legal challenge came from two states, New Jersey and Pennsylvania, which argued that the new rules fell outside the scope of the department’s authority under the ACA and had not been adopted using the appropriate procedures. For their part, the Little Sisters asked the lower courts and the Supreme Court to hold that RFRA required the more aggressive exemption system.In today’s decision, Justice Clarence Thomas and the court’s other four conservatives held that HHS had not gone beyond its authority in creating its new form of exemption for the Little Sisters. But the majority opinion did not decide whether RFRA requires the exemptions — the issue that had brought the Little Sisters to the court in 2016. That means the case will go back to the lower courts, where New Jersey and Pennsylvania could force the issue, asking the lower court to rule that the HHS rules are unlawful for a different reason, namely that they are not required by RFRA as the Trump administration insisted.In a separate concurrence, Justice Samuel Alito, who practically owns the law of religious exemptions by virtue of the number of opinions he has written in the area, laid out his view that RFRA would be violated without the Trump exemption for Little Sisters. He was joined by Justice Neil Gorsuch, who is the most activist conservative on the court today, and apparently had no interest in the majority’s more cautious approach.Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote a dissent arguing the opposite position: that the Trump exemption is not mandated by RFRA, essentially because it benefits “religious adherents at the expense of third parties,” namely the employees who would lose contraceptive care in contradiction to the core mission of the ACA. Justice Sonia Sotomayor joined Ginsburg’s dissent.Justice Elena Kagan, joined by Justice Stephen Breyer, took a compromise middle ground. Kagan said the case should have been sent back to the lower courts under the so-called Chevron doctrine, which says that when a law directed at an executive branch agency is ambiguous, the courts should defer to the agency’s reasonable interpretation of the law. Then Kagan added that, similar to Ginsburg, she thought the lower courts should hold that the Trump exemption was not required by RFRA.The upshot is that the conservatives did not give the Little Sisters everything they wanted. And no matter what happens in the November election, the issue will probably come back to the Supreme Court again.If Trump is reelected, the liberal states will presumably assert that the Trump exemption is not required by RFRA and is therefore unlawful. Then the swing vote, Chief Justice John Roberts, will have to decide the issue.If Joe Biden is elected, there will be major pressure on him to revoke the Trump exemption. Then the Little Sisters would challenge that revocation and argue that RFRA demands they be treated like a church. Given that the Obama administration could not reach a compromise, it seems unlikely that a Biden administration would.Regardless, religious exemptions will continue to be a bone of contention between religious conservatives and liberals. So far, the Roberts court has been consistently on the side of exemptions — a trend confirmed in this second round of the Little Sisters case, and likely in a third round to come.This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.Noah Feldman is a Bloomberg Opinion columnist and host of the podcast “Deep Background.” He is a professor of law at Harvard University and was a clerk to U.S. Supreme Court Justice David Souter. His books include “The Three Lives of James Madison: Genius, Partisan, President.” For more articles like this, please visit us at now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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  • Exxon Faces More Pressure Than Ever to Release a Private Outlook

    Exxon Faces More Pressure Than Ever to Release a Private Outlook

    (Bloomberg) -- America’s biggest oil companies are coming under increasing pressure from climate-conscious investors to disclose their long-term forecasts for crude prices as the Covid-19 pandemic injects fresh uncertainty into the demand outlook for fossil fuels.Exxon Mobil Corp. and Chevron Corp. don’t publish such estimates, meaning that shareholders are less able to scrutinize how the companies’ investment plans square with expectations for a global transition to clean energy. That needs to change, according to the New York State Common Retirement Fund, California State Teachers’ Retirement System, and Ceres, a Boston-based coalition of investors with $30 trillion of assets.In Europe, major oil companies are sharing their long-term forecasts, with dramatic results. Two weeks ago, BP Plc said it had radically reduced its long-term price assumption for Brent crude, causing a writedown of as much as $17.5 billion. Royal Dutch Shell Plc warned Tuesday that it would write down as much as $22 billion in the second quarter as the pandemic hammers demand for everything from oil to liquefied natural gas.Long-term price assumptions are critical because they’re used by Big Oil to determine whether or not a resource will be economically viable and at what value it’s held on a company’s books. Activists and some investors say companies are at risk of being overly optimistic in their assessment of future crude prices. That could lead to them to build expensive projects that effectively become worthless — so-called stranded assets —  in a world transitioning toward low-carbon fuel sources.“Exxon and Chevron should be more transparent and disclose long-term price forecasts and other information that investors need to assess their companies’ low-carbon transition plans,” said Mark Johnson, a spokesman for the Office of the New York State Comptroller, which oversees the New York State Common Retirement Fund. “Without this information, investors cannot assess whether Exxon and Chevron are serious, or just paying lip service to the threat of climate change.”Chevron compiles “multiple forecast scenarios” informed by third-party information and its own analysis, spokesman Sean Comey said in an emailed statement. “We continue to view this data as proprietary since it contains sensitive business information that would be of interest to our competitors.”Exxon evaluates annual plans and major investments across a range of price scenarios, and it discloses guidance on the impact of price fluctuations in annual regulatory filings, spokesman Casey Norton said in an emailed response to questions. The company supports the goals of the Paris Agreement on climate change, Norton said.“The world will continue to require significant investment in liquids and natural gas,” he said.Covid-19 has brought the issue of future pricing into sharp relief. Before the pandemic, peak crude demand was thought to be at least a decade away. But the virus has caused such a savage drop-off in oil consumption that some, including BP CEO Bernard Looney, are questioning if global usage of fossil fuels will ever return to pre-pandemic levels.“At the heart of investor concern is that they’re planning for a future that’s not likely to come to pass -- a future of high demand and high prices,” said Andrew Logan, senior director of oil and gas at Ceres.Speaking to investors in March, Exxon and Chevron both gave their long-term cash flow projections at $60 a barrel, roughly the average of the past five years. But the projections aren’t a long-term price forecast and don’t provide insights into climate planning or potential writedowns. Meanwhile, crude is currently trading around $40 a barrel, with lingering uncertainty over the recovery in global demand or whether OPEC can maintain supply cuts.Both companies regularly tout their new projects as having low break-even costs that make them more competitive than those of their rivals. For example, Exxon has said its projects in Guyana and the Permian Basin on West Texas and New Mexico will make “double-digit returns” at $40 a barrel. But it may be a different story for other parts of its portfolio. If oil was at $30, Exxon would own 60% of the oil majors’ 30 lowest-margin assets by production, according to researcher Wood Mackenzie Ltd.“There’s a bit of opaqueness to the disclosure” from American oil companies without the long-term price assumptions, said Brian Rice, a fund manager at California State Teachers’ Retirement System, also known as Calstrs. “From an engagement perspective, it can be frustrating,” he said, adding that it could be a data point that more investors push for in the future. Calstrs and the New York State Common Retirement Fund manage about $453 billion between them including shares of Exxon and Chevron.While there’s no specific regulation than prevents U.S. companies from publishing long-term price forecasts, many are reluctant to do so for fear of exposing themselves to lawsuits accusing the companies of trying to influence oil prices, according to Ed Hirs, an energy fellow at the University of Houston.For investors, the risk they face is that price assumptions are too rosy. But it’s also a critical issue for the environment. Much of Canada’s oil sands, among the most carbon-intensive parts of the industry, were developed with the expectation of prices above $80 a barrel, according to Kathy Mulvey, a campaign director at the Union of Concerned Scientists.“We need more scrutiny at the front end of these projects,” she said in an interview. “They pose systemic risks to the environment if they get it wrong.”For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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  • BHP Overstayed in Petroleum. Time to Exit

    BHP Overstayed in Petroleum. Time to Exit

    (Bloomberg Opinion) -- BHP Group’s future can do without hydrocarbons.The world’s largest digger is among the last heavyweights to mix mines with a significant presence in oil, a combination that is becoming harder to justify over the long term. Crude demand will be slow to recover after a pandemic that has kept workers home and jets grounded, and some of that appetite will never come back. Meanwhile, pressure to cut carbon emissions is only increasing. Oil giant BP Plc is the  latest to take a hit, warning it expects impairments and write-offs worth as much as $17.5 billion due to a more gloomy view of what lies ahead. The Big Australian could benefit from a dose of that realism.There is little question that the petroleum division, with assets from Western Australia to the Gulf of Mexico, has generated impressive cash over the years — if you exclude the ill-considered foray into U.S. shale, a $20 billion investment (excluding capital expenditure) much criticized by activist fund Elliott Management Corp. and eventually sold off in 2018. In the six months to December 2019, the unit accounted for about 13% of BHP’s total earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortization, notching up an impressive 65% margin. Only iron ore, the group’s top earner, was higher, at 69%. Add in low production costs that cushion the blow of 2020’s lackluster oil prices, and it’s easy to see why putting in more cash is tempting when, as analyst Glyn Lawcock of UBS Group AG points out, the miner has few readily available alternative investments.It’s also true that while the medium-term global appetite for oil looks far less certain than it did, there’s a more appealing argument to be made around fading supply. Indeed, the $115 billion miner’s central expectation last year of demand hitting a high point in the mid-2030s now looks bullish, compared to comments from the likes of Royal Dutch Shell Plc and BP. A peak even in the middle of this decade, BHP’s low-demand scenario, may prove optimistic. On the production side, though, the miner is right to point out that the industry has been investing less, a trend that will only accelerate after a disastrous 2020 and squeeze future production. BHP has estimated ongoing natural field decline at a rate of 3% to 5% per year.None of this means boss Mike Henry and his team can afford to ignore the signs that this year will prove to be a turning point for oil.Diversification has benefits, but operating synergies between oil and mining are debatable — it’s not an accident that while majors sold out of one or the other, none have returned. As a standalone business, the petroleum division might arguably have ventured less enthusiastically into shale. And the risk today is clear: Staying on can turn into overstaying.Here, Henry can reflect on the experience in thermal coal, where BHP woke up too late. Rival Rio Tinto Group offloaded its last coal mine in 2018, wrapping up a process that began in 2013. BHP held on to decent assets, using up tax losses. It’s now trying to retreat just as Anglo American Plc prepares to hive off its South African coal mines, and interest in the dirty fuel has dwindled. Oil has fewer easy substitutes, but it's conceivable that, with significant changes in policy, crude could be left similarly stranded. Accepting the need for an exit from a business that BHP has been in since the 1960s is only the first step, of course. For one, a carve-out in the mold of coal-to-aluminium producer South32 Ltd., which BHP spun off successfully in 2015, is harder to advocate for oil. The move then was about getting more out of sub-scale operations. In petroleum, BHP is not the operator for many of the assets, making such efficiencies harder to accomplish.BHP can begin by reviewing its portfolio, starting with mature assets in Australia. Partner Exxon Mobil Corp. has said that it’s seeking a buyer for its share of the Gippsland Basin oil and gas development in the Bass Strait; a joint sale with BHP has been considered before. Chevron Corp., meanwhile,  has put  its stake in the giant North West Shelf liquefied natural gas venture on the block. That operation, Australia’s largest LNG project, is shifting from processing its own gas to opening services to new suppliers, a business known as tolling — less suited to either Chevron or BHP. The mining giant has  in any event been less enthusiastic about gas than oil.Granted, even that won’t be easy. Australia churns up a decent amount of revenue, and BHP can argue it is better to continue taking cash now, at the risk of selling for less later. Some investors may agree. A similarly short-term view in the Gulf of Mexico could see it adding to the portfolio as distressed rivals are forced out.For newish boss Henry, though, none of those would look like the decisions of a company preparing for a greener future. He has an opportunity to outline the path to net zero emissions when BHP announces full-year results in August. An exit plan for oil would be one decisive step toward that goal.This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.Clara Ferreira Marques is a Bloomberg Opinion columnist covering commodities and environmental, social and governance issues. Previously, she was an associate editor for Reuters Breakingviews, and editor and correspondent for Reuters in Singapore, India, the U.K., Italy and Russia.For more articles like this, please visit us at now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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  • Saudi Aramco's Dividend Math Doesn't Add Up

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    (Bloomberg Opinion) -- It’s the mother of all payouts.The $75 billion that Saudi Aramco doles out in dividends every year dwarfs what any other listed company gives to shareholders. It’s roughly equivalent to the payouts from Exxon Mobil Corp., Royal Dutch Shell Plc, Chevron Corp., BP Plc, Total SA, PetroChina Co., Eni SpA, Petroleo Brasiliero SA and China Petroleum & Chemical Corp. or Sinopec — put together.That makes Chief Executive Officer Amin Nasser’s promise to continue that level of returns for the next five years an extraordinary vote of confidence in an oil market awash with uncertainties. Saudi Aramco will be prepared to borrow money to ensure that it meets its commitment this year despite oil prices heading into negative territory, he said this month.Running up debts to keep the dividend on track is standard practice for energy companies amid the carnage of 2020’s oil market — except for those, like Shell, which plan to cut payouts altogether. You only want to fund dividends out of borrowings, though, if you’re certain it’ll be a strictly temporary measure. The risk for Aramco is that upholding such a long-term promise to shareholders will bend its entire business out of shape, just when it needs to be especially nimble as crude demand slows and goes into reverse. The core of Aramco’s profitability is its astonishingly low production costs, with operating expenses amounting to not much more than $8 a barrel of oil and equivalent products last year. It’s remarkable how quickly the spending adds up, though. Royalties paid to the Saudi state alone added another $10 a barrel or so, while corporate income tax came to around $19 a barrel and dividends swallowed a further $15. Once all those tolls were paid, Aramco didn’t have a lot of spare change left out of $60-a-barrel oil, let alone the stuff in the $40-a-barrel range it’s selling at the moment.A firm dividend policy is an unusually inflexible cost. Unlike the royalties and income taxes levied as a percentage of Aramco’s revenues and profits, payouts don’t automatically shrink if the price of crude declines. If anything, the burden per barrel rises further when prices and output fall. Perhaps in recognition of this, the Saudi state has from the start agreed to forgo its portion of any payouts to the extent that receiving them would get in the way of Umm-and-Abu investors getting their share(1). That may help maintain a theoretical $75 billion-a-year payout but it makes a nonsense of the idea that all shareholders are equal, not to mention the principle that a dividend policy is some sort of a commitment to future earnings. It’s not clear, either, why a company with this get-out clause would want to take on debt to meet its promised payments, although Aramco’s borrowing costs are essentially identical to those of the Saudi state.Dividends aren’t the end of Aramco’s committed spending. Its purchase of a majority stake in chemicals company Saudi Basic Industries Corp., or Sabic, was completed this month, committing it to about $69 billion of payments over the next six years — even after a restructured plan pushed the bulk of the cash outflow toward the middle of the decade.Then there’s a potential $15 billion investment in Reliance Industries Ltd.’s Jamnagar refinery in India, $20 billion on a separate planned chemicals venture with Sabic, plus Sabic’s own $5 billion a year or so of capital spending which will now sit on Aramco’s balance sheet.Add it all up and the picture is troubling. It’s likely to be several years before operating cash flows rise above $100 billion a year again, even with Sabic’s business consolidated. If Aramco wants to spend three-quarters of that sum on its dividend while laying out $10 billion to $15 billion annually for Sabic’s finance and investment costs, then capex on its core operations will have to fall to a third or less of the $35 billion-odd that the company was spending until recently. For all that executives are confident of their ability to increase production at very low costs, that sort of belt-tightening would make the easiest route to higher profits — lifting crude output from its pre-Covid 10 million daily barrels to around 13 million — extraordinarily difficult to achieve.That path is likely to be constrained, anyway, by several years of weak demand growth as the world recovers from Covid-19. Not to mention the fact that Aramco’s importance to the oil market rests on the proposition that increases in its output, coordinated via OPEC+, should make prices move in the opposite direction, resulting in little by way of net revenue gains for the company.Unlike most of its competitors, Saudi Aramco doesn’t really need to be so focused on dividends. All but 1.5% of its shares are held by the same state that’s hoovering up royalty and tax payments further up the income statement. Riyadh shouldn’t really care how it’s getting paid, as long as it’s getting paid.That dividend policy looks more like a swaggering attempt to hold back the tide of an oil market on the edge of terminal decline. The quicker Aramco acknowledges that, the better equipped it will be to handle the coming turmoil.(1) Americans would call them "Mom-and-Pop shareholders."This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.David Fickling is a Bloomberg Opinion columnist covering commodities, as well as industrial and consumer companies. He has been a reporter for Bloomberg News, Dow Jones, the Wall Street Journal, the Financial Times and the Guardian.For more articles like this, please visit us at now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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