SLB boosts shareholder returns amid bullish oil market outlook

The new logo of SLB is seen in this undated handout image obtained by Reuters on October 19, 2022. SLB/Handout via REUTERS

Nov 3 (Reuters) - Top oilfield services firm SLB (SLB.N) will raise its quarterly dividend next year by 43% and resume a share buyback program, executives said on Thursday, offering an upbeat view of energy markets.

Although annual revenues have fallen every year since 2019, SLB should see revenue increase this year from last year's levels and is targeting a 15% compound average revenue growth rate through 2025 from 2021 levels, officials said.

The company's rosy outlook comes as oil and gas offshore activity is poised to surpass levels before the COVID-19 pandemic, on strong demand for fossil fuels production and on technologies to curb emissions.

"Upstream spending is very resilient," Chief Executive Olivier Le Peuch told investors at a conference in New York on Thursday, adding that he expects double-digit growth in energy sector capital investment in the coming years. Upstream investment in the Middle East could hit record levels, he said.

Oil prices this year climbed to their strongest in roughly eight years as Russia's invasion of Ukraine led to disrupted energy supplies. Some economists fear rising energy prices could spark a global recession that cuts fuel demand.

SLB this year has benefited from increased oil drilling and production activity in North America. The broader industry is likely entering a "super cycle" despite some potential disruptions due to geopolitical risks.

Shares settled up 1.3% at $51.80. The stock is up almost 73% year-to-date.

The company next year will boost its quarterly dividend by 43% to 25 cents per share, and restart a share buyback program with a $9 billion authorization. The company aims to return a minimum of 50% of its free cash flow to shareholders in the coming years.

It will maintain capital spending levels at between 5% and 7% of revenue, Chief Financial Officer Stephane Biguet said on Thursday.

Formerly called Schlumberger, SLB rebranded itself in late October with a new name, logo and color scheme to reflect an increasing focus on its digital business and commitments to a lower carbon future.

The company launched a New Energy business unit in 2020 and aims to generate $3 billion in revenue from that enterprise by the end of the decade, Le Peuch said. The business helps oil and gas customers reduce carbon emissions and develop cleaner fuels such as hydrogen.

Reporting by Liz Hampton in Denver; Editing by Kirsten Donovan, Barbara Lewis and Lincoln Feast

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