HOUSTON - Occidental Petroleum Corp on Monday posted a larger-than-expected fourth-quarter loss despite higher oil and gas prices as an asset sale weighed on results. The U.S. producer has slashed jobs and output after the coronavirus pandemic hammered global energy demand, pressuring an energy company that had loaded up on debt in 2019 to acquire an oil rival. Its fourth-quarter loss widened to $731 million compared with a $269 million loss in the same quarter a year ago. Shares fell as much as 4% in after-hours trading but later pared losses to trade down 2% at $25.85. The adjusted per-share loss of 78 cents was higher than analyst expectations for a 59-cent loss, according to IBES data on Refinitiv. For the same quarter last year, the company reported a per-share loss of 30 cents. “We remain committed to strengthening our balance sheet and transitioned into 2021 with an improved financial position by achieving our 2020 divestiture target, reducing debt and successfully extending debt maturities,” said Chief Executive Vicki Hollub. Occidental reported a net loss of $1.3 billion, or $1.41 per share, flat with the $1.3 billion, or $1.50 per share, loss in the fourth quarter of 2019. The latest loss included a pretax charge of $820 million from the sale of oil properties in West Texas. The company collected 5% more, or $40.77 per barrel, for its oil in the fourth quarter from the third, benefiting from a rebound in oil prices. It also collected 31% more for its natural gas during the final quarter compared with the third. Occidental forecast the current quarter's oil and gas production would shrink about 4%, mostly due to output losses during the recent winter storm in Texas. Shale firms shut some wells as electric power outages and frozen lines curtailed production. It projected a $225 million first-quarter profit from chemicals and forecast pipeline and marketing losses would widen to a range of between $135 million and $185 million. For the year, Occidental forecast oil and gas output would be flat compared with the fourth quarter at about 1.14 million barrels per day. It expects pretax earnings from its OxyChem chemicals unit to show a profit of between $775 million and $825 million offset by a pretax loss in its pipeline and marketing business of between $650 million and $750 million. Occidental reiterated capital spending plans of around $2.9 billion this year. It plans to sell between $2 billion and $3 billion in properties this year, the proceeds of which would go to pay down its debt of about $33.6 billion. REUTERS
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