Oil giant Exxon reported a staggering loss for 2020 on Tuesday as the pandemic crushed energy demand and undercut oil prices.
Exxon Mobil Corporation reported the largest losses in its history — nearly 20.1 billion dollars (£14.7 billion) for the fourth quarter, including more than 19 billion dollars (£13.9 billion) to write down the value of company assets. For the full year, it lost 22.4 billion dollars (£16.39 billion).
Its announcement reflected that of another oil heavyweight – BP – which posted a profit of 825 million dollars (£603 million) in the fourth quarter but still lost 18.1 billion dollars (£13.24 billion) in 2020.
Also, Chevron reported last week that it lost 5.5 billion dollars (£4.02 billion) last year.
Signs point to better results for the oil companies this year. Crude prices are up roughly 50% in the past three months, including a gain of more than 10% since January 1, as major producers led by Saudi Arabia have cut output.
The oil companies are hoping the roll-out of Covid-19 vaccines will mean a return to more normal life for businesses and consumers, which would in turn boost demand for oil and natural gas.
Energy demand slumped last year as the pandemic led to lockdowns and a dramatic drop in energy for uses such as transportation.
“Energy consumption collapsed as economies shut down, oil prices hit their lowest point in history, and refining margins fell well below their 10-year lows,” said Exxon CEO Darren Woods.
“It was the first time in memory that we saw simultaneous lows in each of our businesses.”
Irving, Texas-based Exxon is responding by cutting costs. It expects by 2023 to cut 6 billion dollars (£4.39 billion) in annual spending compared with 2019 levels.