Should investors follow Warren Buffett’s lead and acquire shares of Occidental Petroleum (NYSE:OXY)? After all, OXY stock has essentially doubled on a year-to-date (YTD) basis.
OXY stock started surging when news first broke that Buffett is buying billions worth of the company’s stock through his holding company, Berkshire Hathaway (NYSE:BRK-A). In the past month, Occidental Petroleum’s share price has risen 53.3% to $59.70, bringing its YTD gains to 105.9%.
Compare that to the benchmark S&P 500 index that is down 8% so far in 2022. Over the last 12 months, Occidental Petroleum’s share price has increased 120%. While Buffett’s purchase has served as a vote of confidence in the stock, Occidental’s share price has also gotten a boost from oil prices that are above $100 a barrel and at their highest level since 2014, as well as a strong balance sheet.
The stellar performance of Occidental Petroleum raises the question of whether investors should follow Buffett and also accumulate shares of the Houston, Texas-based oil giant, or if the stock has rallied too much in recent weeks and is now due for a correction.
Buffett Power for OXY Stock
Warren Buffett is arguably the world’s best known buy and hold investor. The Oracle of Omaha, as Buffett is known, once famously said that his “favorite holding period is forever.”
As an investor, Buffett does not trade a lot of stocks. He has held some stocks in his portfolio, such as Coca-Cola (NYSE:KO) and American Express (NYSE:AXP), for more than three decades. So, when Buffett takes a new position in a company’s stock, Wall Street and the wider investment community take notice. Especially when Buffett is buying shares hand over fist, as he has been with OXY stock since the end of February.
To date, Buffett’s company, Berkshire Hathaway, has bought a total of 118.3 million shares of OXY stock worth $6.9 billion. The average price that Berkshire paid for Occidental stock is $56.60 per share, according to filings with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. Berkshire Hathaway now owns nearly 12% of Occidental’s outstanding shares. The company has quickly become the ninth biggest holding in Berkshire’s portfolio of more than 45 stocks.
Buffett has said he was inspired to buy Occidental Petroleum’s stock after reading a transcript of the company’s Feb. 25 earnings conference call. He told CNBC that he started buying OXY stock on Feb. 28 and that his company “bought all we could.”
Pied Piper Effect
Buffett’s purchase of OXY stock has proven to be a huge vote of confidence in Occidental Petroleum. The share price has rallied sharply in recent weeks as other investors follow Buffet’s lead and also buy Occidental shares.
That Buffett’s stake comes as oil prices hold above $100 a barrel for the first time in nearly a decade is further bolstering OXY stock and all major oil producers. As of this writing, West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude oil, the U.S. benchmark, is hovering right around $110 a barrel. Additionally, Brent crude oil, the international benchmark, is sitting at $114 .33 per barrel. The rise has been fueled by geopolitical conflict in Europe and global supply constraints.
Additionally, Occidental Petroleum is an established business. Operating since 1920, Occidental now has operations in Texas’ Permian Basin, the U.S. Rockies and the Gulf of Mexico. It also has operations overseas in the Middle East.
By market capitalization, Occidental Petroleum ranks 23rd among global oil and gas companies. The company is involved in all aspects of the oil trade, from exploration to manufacturing and marketing. It also has a strong balance sheet, which has only been fortified with the current rise in oil prices.
Strong Balance Sheet
Occidental Petroleum most recently reported fourth quarter (Q4) 2021 adjusted income of $1.4 billion, or $1.48 a share, compared to a loss of $0.65 per share in the same period of 2020 when oil prices turned negative due to collapsing demand during the pandemic. The company’s Q4 2021 earnings beat analysts’ consensus forecast by 35%.
Occidental’s Q4 revenues came in at $8.01 billion, which beat Wall Street expectations for revenue of $7.39 billion. The company attributed the strong results to higher commodity prices and announced that it will pay a regular quarterly dividend of $0.13 per share beginning on Apr. 15, up from $0.01 per share last year.
If there is one blight on Occidental Petroleum’s financials, it is the hefty long-term debt the company has been saddled with following its 2019 acquisition of Anadarko. That purchase left Occidental with $30 billion of debt.
The company said in its Q4 conference call that it plans to continue focusing on debt repayment with plans to buy back $2.5 billion worth of its own bonds. Occidental has said that it hopes to have its long-term debt below $25 billion by the end of the current first quarter. Still, some analysts continue to single out Occidental’s debt as an issue of concern. The median price target among 25 analysts who cover OXY stock is $52, implying a 12.9% downside from current levels.
Wait For A Pullback In OXY Stock
There is certainly a lot to like about Occidental Petroleum. That Warren Buffett now owns more than 10% of the company’s stock is encouraging, as is Occidental’s earnings and long-term prospects.
That said, the stock has gained 105.9% in less than three months and has been red hot since news broke that Buffett has taken a stake in the company. The analyst price predictions indicate that Occidental Petroleum’s share price has run ahead of itself in recent weeks.
After a huge gain, such as the one we’ve seen so far this year, it can be expected that Occidental Petroleum’s share price will pull back some in coming weeks or months. Any drop in oil prices will aid that decline. As such, investors who want to take a position in Occidental Petroleum’s shares should do so on weakness. Wait for the stock to drop before buying. Right now, OXY stock looks overheated and is not a buy after nearly doubling in this year’s first quarter.
Disclosure: On the date of publication, Joel Baglole did not have (either directly or indirectly) any positions in the securities mentioned in this article. The opinions expressed in this article are those of the writer, subject to the InvestorPlace.com Publishing Guidelines.