Texaco to cut 2,500, sell some oil fields


Texaco Corp. announced yesterday that it would sell about half its 600 producing fields in the United States and cut 2,500 jobs as part of a broad move to reduce costs.

The cutbacks, among the largest in U.S. oil operations, come after a two-year cost-cutting effort that shrank Texaco's work force by 13 percent, to 32,000 people.

The jobs that will be affected are in the company's U.S. production and refining operations. The company, based in White Plains, N.Y., said the moves would result in a charge of $165 million in the second quarter.

Lower oil prices have stepped up efforts by producers to become more efficient. Chevron and British Petroleum have completed significant cutbacks, and Amoco and ARCO are expected to announce similar moves soon.

"This industry is nowhere near finished in cutting costs," said Fred Leuffer, an oil analyst with Bear, Stearns & Co. "This has become a very competitive industry, so other companies have to take action."

Shares of Texaco rose 75 cents, to $60.875, on the New York Stock Exchange yesterday. Other oil stocks posted strong gains, including Mobil, up $1.375, to $82.625; Chevron, up 50 cents, to $42.875; and ARCO, up $1.375, to $103.

Although many analysts say Texaco has been one of the most aggressive among oil companies in tightening its belt, Alfred C. DeCrane Jr., the chairman of Texaco, said the goal of the company was to cut another $300 million in overhead.

Mr. DeCrane said the money raised by selling the domestic fields would be invested in domestic production and refining.

But the planned sale of the U.S. oil fields is emblematic of a shift by American oil companies to more exploration and production overseas.

Texaco, which currently spends about 55 percent of its capital on production and refining in the United States and 45 percent abroad, says it expects to reverse that ratio in five years. The company recently announced large projects in Russia and China that will take billions of dollars in new investment.

In the United States, a number of areas have been made off limits for oil exploration because of environmental concerns. Many existing fields have matured, often making it more costly to keep up production, so companies have been seeking fields in Russia and China and off the coasts of Africa and southeast Asia.

Unocal Corp., for example, announced last week that it would sell its oil and gas assets in California, some of which date back 103 years, to free up money for exploration and production overseas.

But Texaco should have little problem finding bidders, said Tom Lewis, an oil analyst with Duff & Phelps in Chicago. Other oil companies may want to expand production in areas where they are weak, and independent oil producers may also be interested, he said.

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