Major comparison

Following on from this post, I thought it would be interesting to do a little digging and prepare charts for each supermajor showing their revenue, profit, staff headcount, and profit per employee for the past 3 years.

Once again, I will state that this is a pretty crude method of judging a company’s performance.  One obvious shortcoming is the fact that as Upstream revenues have dropped, the profitability of Downstream sectors – which are more labor-intensive – has increased, and so one would not expect an indiscriminate bloodbath in any event.  But the raw figures tell an interesting story nonetheless.


Financial YearRevenue(bn)Profit(bn)No. of EmployeesProfit per Employee

The table shows that between 2012-2014 ExxonMobil has maintained profitability fairly well despite declining revenues, and each employee is staggeringly productive in comparison with their peers in other majors.  This is probably why, as I speculated in my earlier post, ExxonMobil is not cutting staff.  On this measure, ExxonMobil seems to be very well run.


Financial YearRevenue(bn)Profit(bn)No. of EmployeesProfit per Employee

Shell have for some reason I cannot fathom increased its headcount by 8% as the oil price collapsed taking its profits with it.  In doing so, Shell’s employees are now adding half as much value as they were two years previously.  I once heard Shell referred to as “a pension fund with oil wells”.  If they want to go toe-to-toe with ExxonMobil, they need to start cutting numbers and getting their remaining employees working occasionally.


Financial YearRevenue(bn)Profit(bn)No. of EmployeesProfit per Employee

Jesus wept!  Total’s profit collapsed by 70% yet they added another 3,000 people to the payroll which was bloated to the tune of 40,000 souls to begin with. On this measure, Total looks less like an oil company and more like a government employment programme.  The decline in employee added value is shocking.


Financial YearRevenue(bn)Profit(bn)No. of EmployeesProfit per Employee

It’s hard to tell what’s going on with BP here, and I suspect the jumping around of their figures is something to do with the Macondo payouts and whatever mess they’ve bought into with Rosneft (I lack the patience to wade through all 263 pages of the annual report).  If 2013 was a normal year, they’re not doing too badly.  If 2014 is business as usual, they’re in the shit.  Bob Dudley might want to spend 2015 letting us know which it is.


Financial YearRevenue(bn)Profit(bn)No. of EmployeesProfit per Employee
Source 1,Source 2

Chevron aren’t doing as well as ExxonMobil, but they are holding steady in terms of profit and their employee added value is far from disgraceful.  Nevertheless, they have announced another 6,000-7,000 job cuts this week, which shows they are pretty serious about financial performance.  Any of those unlucky folk reading this post are probably wishing they’d joined Shell or Total.

“Thank f*ck we don’t work for Chevron!”


3 Responses to Major comparison

  1. Graeme says:

    From looking at Shell’s accounts, it looks as if they have pension obligations of $101bn. They have net assets of $173bn. So, while the situation is not as grim as for say BT or BA, it looks as if the pension tail is sizeable in comparison with the animal to which it is attached.

    • Jake Barnes says:

      IIRC, Shell was one of the last companies to ditch its final salary pension scheme. I know guys in their early 30s who are part of such a scheme, and with a headcount like theirs it’s not surprising their obligations are so enormous. It was a Shell employee who used the phrase “a pension fund with oil wells” when I first heard it, and anyone who’s been involved with them could see that the company is run primarily for the employees. I think things have improved a bit now, but a decade or two ago you had an army of Dutch in London on full expat deals, and a similarly sized army of Brits in the Hague on full expat deals.

  2. Graeme says:

    BT profiles itts pension liabilities out to 2095 in its report and they closed the final salary scheme in 2001. It takes while for these things to work through…