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Can ExxonMobil Get Back to Business Now?

Can ExxonMobil Get Back to Business Now?

By David Lee Smith May 29, 2008

Chalk up a victory for rationality, along with a defeat for unnecessary shareholder “assistance.”

I’m referring to ExxonMobil‘s (NYSE: XOM) annual meeting Wednesday in Dallas, where shareholders of the world’s largest publicly owned company defeated more than a dozen proposals for reshaping Exxon’s direction or its chain of command. Several of the proposals were offered by descendants of the company’s late founder, John D. Rockefeller.

Perhaps the most serious of the offerings, a provision that would have separated the company’s chairmanship from its CEO position, received a 39.5% affirmative vote from the company’s holders, a tad below last year’s 40%. Other suggestions involved quantifying objectives for lowering greenhouse gas emissions and allowing shareholder say-so in setting executive compensation. Proposals to split the chairman and CEO roles at the company now have been heard seven times.

During the meeting, Peter O’Neill, a great-great-grandson of the company’s patriarch and a family representative, noted that the family believes that in light of its current financial successes — it generated more than $40 billion in 2007 earnings — now is an ideal time for ExxonMobil “to take the long-term steps needed to increase shareholder value.”

Huh? Exxon is already meaningfully outdistancing its two closest rivals,Chevron (NYSE: CVX) and ConocoPhillips (NYSE: COP), in translating itsoperating efforts to financial growth. It’s also returning gargantuan amounts of cash to shareholders via repurchases and dividends. Isn’t that the essence of increasing shareholder value?

To achieve its success, ExxonMobil has been forced to do business with a less-than-hospitable Russian government, which has strong-armed Royal Dutch Shell (NYSE: RDS-A) (NYSE: RDS-B) and BP (NYSE: BP). It must also contend with Venezuelan wild man Hugo Chavez, who last year helped himself to the assets of half a dozen big oil companies. So Exxon’s core business clearly involves something more than casually nibbling on bon-bons.

At the same time, the U.S. Department of Energy’s Energy Information Administration offered up new data showing that despite the soaring price of oil, oil production is actually faltering. On that basis alone, I’d just as soon Exxon keep its shoulder to the oil-producing wheel.

I’d also suggest that Foolish investors remain fixed on the company’s Herculean — and highly effective — efforts.

For related Foolishness:

royaldutchshellplc.com and its sister websites royaldutchshellgroup.com, shellenergy.website, shellnazihistory.com, royaldutchshell.website, johndonovan.website, shellnews.net and shell2004.com are all owned by John Donovan. There is also a Wikipedia article.

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