With the oil price re-correcting over the past month, oil companies have been forced to retrench for what could be a much longer-than-expected downturn. Most are keeping a lid on growth-focused capex spending and are slicing or suspending dividends. Suncor Energy Inc. (TSX:SU)(NYSE:SU), on the other hand, has bucked those trends as it is still generating a lot of cash flow, enabling it to spend money not just to grow, but to return excess cash to shareholders. These characteristics make it the only Canadian oil stock to consider buying right now.
1. It’s actually generating free cash flow
During the second quarter Suncor Energy generated $2.2 billion in cash flow from operations. What’s astounding about that number is that it isn’t all that far off from the $2.4 billion it generated in the second quarter of last year, despite the fact oil prices are down 40% year over year. However, what’s even more remarkable is that after capex spending and dividends, the company still managed to produce $580 million in free cash flow.
In fact, year-to-date the company has generated more than $700 million in free cash flow, which is something that only a handful of oil companies have been able to do this year. That ability to generate excess cash is enabling the company to invest to grow production while still having excess cash left over to return to investors.
2. It’s still investing heavily for growth
While Suncor Energy hasn’t been immune to the spending cuts within the oil industry, its cuts still haven’t been nearly as deep as its peers. As a result, the company expects to spend $5.8-6.4 billion this year on capex, about half of which is being invested in growth projects. That’s something that few of its peers are doing these days as a growing number of oil companies are just investing enough to keep production roughly flat.
Suncor Energy, on the other hand, is continuing to invest in projects that won’t deliver growth for several years. In fact, most of its growth spending is on Fort Hills and Hebron, which aren’t expected to deliver any production until 2017. That’s a much longer time table than its peers, as those that are investing for growth are doing so for projects that can deliver additional production, and therefore cash flow, in 2015.
3. It’s returning more cash to shareholders
Aside from actually generating free cash flow after investing in growth projects, the other thing that sets Suncor Energy apart from its peers is the fact that it doesn’t need to conserve cash to plug holes in its balance sheet. Instead, it can redirect its excess cash flow back to shareholders as it is one of the few oil companies that has not cut its dividend. Instead, Suncor just recently increased its payout.
On top of that, the company still has enough excess cash flow to restart its stock buyback program. That puts it in a really elite group as even the biggest of big oil doesn’t have enough free cash to buy back their stock.
Despite the weakness in the oil price, Suncor Energy is still generating almost as much cash flow as it was last year when the price was higher. That affords it the ability to invest in growth and return more of its excess cash to investors. It’s a rare fete, especially in Canada, which is why Suncor Energy is the only oil stock to consider buying in Canada right now. It is clearly built to last this downturn.
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Fool contributor Matt DiLallo has no position in any stocks mentioned.