Occidental Would Like to Sell You a Few Corporate Airplanes
(Bloomberg) -- Occidental Petroleum Corp., owner of one of the most high-profile corporate jets in recent history, is ready to sell Anadarko Petroleum Corp.’s planes in a bid to show it is serious about cost cuts.
At a time when activists are digging deeper in search of shareholder returns, the corporate jet has become a symbol of excess among some oil producers. In Occidental’s case, it also allowed investors to track key moves in its fight for Anadarko.
To be clear, Occidental is not selling its own plane, which became notorious as executives flew to Paris, the Hague and Omaha, Nebraska in what became a very visible effort to line up backing for its acquisition of Anadarko Petroleum Corp. Occidental said this week that Anadarko’s four planes would be on the company’s hit list when the takeover closes.
Investors may have been impressed by the promise of cost cuts. Warren Buffett, who kicked $10 billion into the deal, has some other advice.
"If you use a company plane, it’s a big way of running a billboard that I’m in town for something," Buffett said in a May 3 interview with CNBC. "I should point out anybody out there who wants to do business with us that if they take a NetJets plane nobody will be able to track them."
Occidental has said it sees about $2 billion in annual cost cuts once it closes the Anadarko deal. The company’s chief financial officer, Cedric Burgher, was quick to point out the company could cut back on Anadarko’s four planes in a May 6 conference call.
“We don’t think we need all of those, and we can reduce that along with obviously people in duplicate offices and real estate,” Burgher said.
Representatives for Occidental and Anadarko declined to comment.
Most major explorers reduced their capital budgets after oil prices fell at the end of 2018, and shareholders took a hard stand against unfettered growth.
For U.S shale producers, reining in growth may not be enough to win back investors upset with an industry that for years burned through cash. Now, everything from executive pay, to corporate jets and country club memberships are newly under fire as activists go a level deeper in demanding more returns for shareholders.
Earlier this year, wildcatter Floyd Wilson was kicked out as chief executive officer of Halcon Resources after hedge fund Fir Tree launched a campaign against the struggling producer’s spending habits, calling out Wilson for flying private even after the company emerged from bankruptcy.
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