By Sabrina Valle
HOUSTON (Reuters) -Exxon Mobil Corp's chief executive said on Wednesday the company is confident it will hit a target to double earnings and cash flow from operations, adding that consumers and governments must decide how quickly the world moves to cleaner fuels.
Oil and gas prices have reached multi-year highs this year, boosting results across the energy industry. The largest U.S. oil producer posted a historic loss of $22.4 billion in 2020 as oil prices tanked amid low fuel consumption during the coronavirus pandemic.
"We are back on track to deliver the growth and earnings and cash flow we anticipated," CEO Darren Woods said in an online event organized by the New York Times.
Exxon can grow results "with a lot less capital." Its recent cost cutting coupled with higher energy prices provides "capital that we can put into (share) buybacks," Woods said.
Exxon set a target in 2018 of increasing earnings to $31 billion by 2025 – from 2017’s adjusted profit of $15 billion, excluding the impact of U.S. tax reform and impairments. Last year, Exxon said it would meet the target by 2027 https://corporate.exxonmobil.com/News/Newsroom/News-releases/2020/1130_ExxonMobil-to-prioritize-capital-investments-on-high-value-assets.
"We believe we will meet that," Woods said.
Low-carbon fuels and technologies come with a cost and it will be up to governments, society and consumers - not oil producers - to decide how fast the energy transition will happen, Woods added.
"Do you pay more to transition more quickly?" Woods asked. "It is difficult for a company to answer that question."
Earlier this month, Exxon said it would spend up to $15 billion on lower-carbon technologies over the next six years. It also plans to buy back up to $10 billion worth of its shares over 24 months, starting next year.
(Reporting by Sabrina Valle; Editing by Nick Zieminski and Peter Cooney)