ExxonMobil announced plans to slash its capital budget and suspend its share repurchase program Tuesday after the crash in oil prices cut deeply into its earnings.
The biggest US oil company reported a 58 percent drop in fourth-quarter earnings to $2.8 billion, its lowest quarterly profit since 2002. Revenues fell 31.5 percent to $59.8 billion.
As with other petroleum companies, ExxonMobil saw a massive decline in income from exploration and production of crude oil. Earnings in this area fell to just $857 million from $4.6 billion in the year-ago period.
Those results were partially offset by better returns in downstream operations for processing crude oil into gasoline and other products.
Downstream earnings rose to $1.4 billion from $500 million in the fourth quarter of 2014.
ExxonMobil's earnings, though lower, remained in positive territory. Chevron on Friday reported a $588 million loss for the fourth quarter. BP Tuesday reported a 2015 loss of $6.5 billion.
On Tuesday, Standard & Poor's placed ExxonMobil on creditwatch with negative implications on expectations that "credit measures will be weak for the ratings through 2018."
"We currently expect to resolve our review within 90 days," S&P said. "We currently anticipate that if we lower ratings, we would not lower them by more than one notch."
S&P announced credit rating actions on 20 investment-grade oil companies in all, including downgrades of Chevron, Hess and eight other companies.
Oil companies have been downsizing staff and mothballing drilling rigs in response to a drop in oil prices from more than $100 a barrel in July 2014 to about $30 a barrel currently.
ExxonMobil pledged to cut its 2016 capital budget by 25 percent to $23.2 billion, after a 19 percent reduction last year.
However, ExxonMobil vice president for investor relations Jeff Woodbury told analysts that the company was still committed to bringing on line 10 already announced major capital projects in 2016 and 2017.
That would come on the heels of projects in 2015 that lifted the company's oil and gas output by 3.2 percent to 4.1 million barrels per day of oil-equivalent.
ExxonMobil could also decide to extend some other projects depending on conditions offered by oil services companies, many of which are willing to grant concessions to keep business going.
"We are very well-positioned to flex the program up or down depending on the business climate," Woodbury said.
The oil giant also said it is halting its longstanding share repurchase program.
In 2015, ExxonMobil spent $4 billion to repurchase 48 million shares, down from $16 billion to repurchase 177 million shares in 2013.
Curtailing the share repurchase program was needed in light of the "very challenging" business conditions and to continue to protect the greater priority of "a reliable and growing dividend," Woodbury said.
For the year, ExxonMobil reported net income of $16.2 billion, about 50 percent below the 2014 profit.
ExxonMobil shares fell 2.3 percent to $74.53 in afternoon trade.