ExxonMobil and Chevron gather investors after latest big oil mega deal

Shareholders in ExxonMobil and Chevron gathered for the big oil giants’ annual meetings on Wednesday amid scrutiny from lawmakers and climate activists.

Hours before they convened, another US energy conglomerate, ConocoPhillips, announced plans to buy Marathon Oil in an all-stock deal worth about $17.1bn – rendering it the latest firm to place a vast bet on the future of fossil fuel production.

The meetings come as both Exxon and Chevron are under investigation by Democrats for a recent dinner with Donald Trump, where he reportedly made a quid-pro-quo offer to oil bosses.

Both Chevron and Exxon have also come under fire for promoting doubt about global warming despite knowledge of its harms, and for reneging on previous climate pledges as gas prices have risen.

In October, ExxonMobil agreed to buy the shale group Pioneer Natural Resources, while Chevron announced plans to acquire the Texas oil company Hess – two of the country’s largest oil and gas deals in decades. ExxonMobil completed its acquisition earlier this month, while Chevron is vying to get its deal across the line.

Environmental campaigners have condemned these deals, warning that they risk exacerbating the climate crisis by enabling big oil operators to grow even larger despite scientific consensus that fossil fuel must be phased out to avert climate catastrophe.

ConocoPhillips’s takeover of Marathon Oil – valued at $22.5bn, when including $5.4bn in debt – comes amid climbing oil prices. Crude prices have jumped more than 12% this year, and the cost of a barrel rose above $80 this week.

“As oil and gas companies continue to merge and acquire one another, it raises serious questions about the industry’s commitment to reducing emissions and transitioning to cleaner forms of energy,” said Cassidy DiPaola, communications director for the Make Polluters Pay campaign, which focuses on oil industry accountability. “These deals, worth tens of billions of dollars, suggest that major players are still betting heavily on a future dominated by fossil fuels.”

While oil giants remain under pressure over their climate impact, Exxon shareholders voted to re-elect the firm’s chair Darren Woods, lead director Joseph Hooley, and all 12 directors to the company’s board. The firm had been grappling with a “vote no” campaign, launched in response to a lawsuit Exxon filed against investors pushing to curb the company’s greenhouse gas emissions.

The largest public pension manager in the US, the California Public Employment Retirement System, voted against every board member’s re-election in response to the company’s lawsuit against Arjuna Capital and Follow This, activist investor groups that submitted a shareholder proposal earlier this year to commit Exxon to curb its greenhouse gas emissions. Exxon claims the shareholder proposal seeks to undermine the company’s business.

Investors in Chevron also re-elected all 12 of the firm’s board directors, throwing their weight behind the oil major’s leadership.

Chevron has faced criticism amid the war in Gaza for extracting gas claimed by Israel in the eastern Mediterranean. As its shareholders gathered in the Bay Area on Wednesday morning, dozens of protesters blockaded the entrance to the oil company’s headquarters to call for it to divest from operations in Israel and for consumers to boycott the company.

“Chevron is literally fueling the genocide being waged against Palestinians,” said Matt Leonard of the Oil and Gas Action Network.

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Ryan Lance, ConocoPhillips chair and CEO, declared that its deal for Marathon Oil would add “high-quality, low cost of supply inventory” to the firm’s operations. “Importantly”, he added, ConocoPhillips and Marathon Oil “share similar values and cultures with a focus on operating safely and responsibly to create long-term value for our shareholders”.

Lee Tillman, Marathon Oil chair, president and CEO, hailed a “proud moment” for his company, which he claimed had remained “true to our core values of safety and environmental excellence” while generating “compelling” returns for its shareholders.

The deal, which requires approval from Marathon Oil stockholders and clearance by regulators, is expected to close in the fourth quarter.

The recently approved Exxon-Pioneer merger has also faced FTC scrutiny after the regulatory body claimed that Pioneer’s former CEO Scott Sheffield had attempted to privately coordinate with Opec+ officials to keep fuel prices high.

Associated Press contributed reporting


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