Exxon Mobil Corporation (XOM): a Great Investment for the New Year

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Exxon Mobil Corporation (NYSE:XOM) is the world's largest publicly-traded oil company, with around 80% of its earnings coming from outside the U.S. Exxon has a variety of operations, ranging from upstream to downstream, and even some chemical segments. Exxon's upstream operations include nearly 25 billion in oil equivalent barrels in proven reserves, with nearly a 50/50 oil and gas split. Its downstream operations include refining and marketing products, with refining capacity of over six million barrels per day. Mega-billionaire Bill Gates is the top fund owner in Exxon (check out Bill Gates' biggest bets).

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Exxon reported better than expected 3Q results on the back of strong refining margins. Driving future growth will be Exxon's XTO Energy acquisition, which gave the energy company access to significant unconventional resources. This will also help it to expand its handle on the natural gas market. Exxon expects to spend $185 billion over the next five years, which is up 30% from the 5-years prior.

The oil giant boasts an impressive balance sheet and is one of the few companies still sporting a triple-A credit rating. Exxon has an impressive long-term debt to equity ratio of only 5% and has over $13 billion in cash on hand. Exxon also has the lowest payout ratio of the five energy stocks listed here at 22%. Assuming Exxon boosts its payout to the peer average (35%), its dividend yield could increase from its current 2.6% to 4.2%.

Chevron Corporation (NYSE:CVX) is one of the major energy players alongside Exxon. Production fell 3% in 2011 on the back of a pipeline incident in Thailand. Growth is expected to be driven by new liquid natural gas projects in Australia and Asia. These initiatives will fuel production growth of 1% through 2014, and then 4% from 2015 to 2017. The one downside for Chevron is its liquid-heavy portfolio mix, as nearly 70% of its assets are focused in this arena.

This oil giant has been pushing to make its downstream operations smaller and less complex, with a whopping 90% of its 2012 CapEx budget expected to go toward exploration and production. Ken Fisher - founder of Fisher Asset Management - is Chevron's top fund owner with over 3.5 million shares (check out Ken Fisher's newest picks).

What other companies must we compare Exxon to?

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