Yesterday it was US and Italian energy giants Chevron and Saipem which announced a total of over 10,000 new job cuts in the aftermath of oil sliding back under $50 and resuming its downward trend. This is how we framed it: "in Q2, after the price of oil staged a substantial rebound of about 50% from the year to date lows in the $40's, energy-related layoffs trickled to a halt as corporations hoped the worst is behind them, and as a result would merely bide their time before redeploying their workforce toward exploration and production. Alas, this was not meant to be, and as the events of the last month have shown, oil has resumed its downward slide. And, as expected, so have layoffs."
Today, we got more confirmation of this when Royal Dutch Shell, still basking in the glow of its proposed $70 billion mega-acquisition of BG Group, announced it would axe 6,500 jobs this year and step up spending cuts, responding to an extended period of lower oil prices which contributed to a 37 percent drop in the oil and gas group's second-quarter profits.
In addition, the Anglo-Dutch company is also increasing asset disposals to $50 billion between 2014 and 2018 as it pushes ahead with its proposed $70 billion acquisition of BG Group.
Reuters reports: "We have to be resilient in a world where oil prices remain low for some time, whilst keeping an eye on recovery," Chief Executive Officer Ben van Beurden said.
Shell said it anticipated 6,500 staff and direct contractor reductions globally in 2015 from a total of nearly 100,000 employees, as it grapples with a halving in oil prices to around $55 per barrel in a year.
Like rivals BP, Statoil and Total it announced reductions in capital investments for a second time this year, shaving another $3 billion off its 2015 budget to bring it to $30 billion.
Shell will only make two major investment decisions this year, with many projects scaled back, delayed or canceled, van Beurden said. He hinted at further spending cuts if economic conditions worsen, including a steeper drop in oil prices.
So firing thousands as it onboards tens of thousands of new BG Group workers? Clearly those about to be let go will be scratching their heads over this, but for the company only the shareholders matter: Shell reassured wary investors its bumper BG buy will not break the bank. If the deal goes through in early 2016 as planned, capital investments in 2016 will be $35 billion, Shell said, lower than the $42 to $40 billion analysts had expected.
Remember: as long as the stock ends up green on the day, nothing else matters.
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And to show just how complicated budgeting has become for energy companies in an environment where oil has entered two bear markets in one year, yesterday Whiting Petroleum Corp cut its 2015 budget on Wednesday less than two weeks after raising it, a flip-flop which Reuters said "underscores the uncertainty engulfing the energy industry while crude prices sit roughly 50 percent below last year's levels."
Reuters adds that Whiting, which is North Dakota's largest oil producer, tends to be seen as a key barometer of the health of the U.S. shale industry. Its spending trepidation is sure to have ripple effects on drilling contractors and other oilfield service providers.
Whiting now plans to spend $2.15 billion this year, running eight drilling rigs instead of a previous plan for 11, and mulling small divestments to bolster the company's balance sheet.
Just 12 days ago the company had boosted its budget by 15 percent to $2.3 billion, citing "strong results" from its second quarter.
As crude prices plunged below $50 per barrel, the Whiting board of directors met and decided to adjust the budget, yet again.
"We decided given the oil price environment we would trim that (budget) back," said Whiting spokesman Eric Hagen.
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And some wonder why the Fed is s confused: when corporate Treasurers are forced to change budget plans every two weeks, and in the process either hire or fire thousands of people, because underlying commodities have become too volatiles, it probably makes sense.. if not justify it - after all it is the reflexivity behind the Fed's own central-planning actions that have made the Fed's job impossible.