Murphy’s Jenkins Rises From COVID, and Stock Is Up, Too

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Murphy Oil Corp. of El Dorado and its CEO, Roger Jenkins, are both recovering and working to capitalize on a new deal to prop up worldwide oil prices.

Jenkins, 58 and recovered from COVID-19, has returned as president and chief executive after taking a medical leave of absence March 26. The company announced his return Monday morning, saying that David R. Looney, who had stepped in for Jenkins, was returning to his regular role as executive vice president and chief financial officer.

Meanwhile, Murphy’s stock (NYSE: MUR), which had languished at $4.50 last month, surged in the wake of a deal among the world’s major oil producers to restrict production and prop up prices. Prices per barrel had crashed from $63.27 for West Texas crude in early January to $20 by March 3.

A pricing war largely between Russia and the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, or OPEC, had pummeled the industry even before the COVID-19 pandemic crashed demand for gasoline. But oil producing nations called a truce Sunday, agreeing to historic production cuts of nearly 10 million barrels a day in May and June, some 10% of global supply. President Donald Trump praised the deal.

“The big Oil Deal with OPEC Plus is done,” the president posted on Twitter, his favored medium. The president predicted that it would save hundreds of thousands of energy industry jobs in the United States. “I would like to thank and congratulate President Putin of Russia and King Salman of Saudi Arabia. I just spoke to them from the Oval Office. Great deal for all!”

Murphy Oil, which was trading at $28 a share on Jan. 14, hit a trough of $4.50 on March 18 before starting a slow rebound. On Monday morning, it was trading around $8.30.

The Independent oil and natural gas exploration and production company announced a cut in 2020 capital spending April 1, to $780 million from $1.45 billion, its second swipe at the capital spending plan in a month’s time. In March, as the price of oil plummeted as Saudi Arabia ramped up production, Murphy had announced it would cut expenses to $950 million. Murphy also said that it was trimming pay for top executives, including Jenkins.

Jenkins, who became CEO in 2013, is a Louisiana State University graduate who previously served as COO and president of Murphy’s exploration and production company.

Jenkins himself, in last month’s company proxy statement, warned that “it’s hard to say how things will look …  as the world has been dramatically changed by the outbreak of COVID-19. We recognize we cannot minimize the challenges facing us today; however, we can lean in and show resilience as we manage our business through them.”

Jenkins’ base salary for 2019, $1.33 million, was barely changed from 2018, but a $4.3 million change in pension value and deferred compensation added to the total package. That was before the 35% salary cut announced April 1.