Majors Need 4 More Years to Surpass Pre-Covid Payouts
The seven Western oil majors have been trumpeting significant hikes to shareholder returns but it will probably be another four years before dividends and share buybacks surpass pre-pandemic payouts.
The group’s dividends and share repurchases will be 28% lower than 2019 levels this year and won’t entirely claw back the deficit until 2025, according to Bloomberg Dividend Forecasts and Bloomberg Estimates. Even after a recently-announced increase, Royal Dutch Shell Plc’s dividend is still just half its pre-Covid-19 level.
High oil prices and austere drilling budgets are combining to boost free cash flow for the companies to the most since the Great Recession. But shareholders aren’t getting the full weight of the bonanza just yet. The biggest oil explorers took on large amounts of debt during the crude-market crash of 2020 and are balancing repayment with shareholder returns.
Even in the long-term, the oil majors will struggle to relive the glory years of the late-2000s, data showed. Dividends and buybacks for the group are forecast to reach $83.6 billion in 2026, almost 50% higher than this year, but significantly below the $100 billion average annual payouts from 2006 through 2008.
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