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New head of Exxon says company will boost dividend and production

Exxon Mobil Chairman & CEO Darren Woods is interviewed on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange, Wednesday, March 1, 2017.

Richard Drew/AP

Exxon Mobil Corp.'s new chief executive says the company will increase production and has a mix of projects to handle any level of oil and gas prices.

Darren Woods also said Tuesday at a meeting with investors that Exxon is committed to increasing its dividend and will buy back shares when the company has extra cash.

Mr. Woods rose to Exxon's top job two months ago after his predecessor, Rex Tillerson, was tapped by then-president-elect Donald Trump to become secretary of state.

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The investor meeting is Mr. Woods's first public event as CEO.

Wall Street is concerned about slow growth and falling profits at Exxon. To allay those concerns, Mr. Woods said the company will boost production 2 per cent a year from 2016 through 2020.

Mr. Woods said drilling in Texas' Permian Basin and in North Dakota will help boost short-term production, while big projects around the world will add to long-term growth.

By the end of 2018, Exxon expects to start production from five major projects in Russia, Canada, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar and Angola.

Cash from those projects and others "will underpin our commitment a reliable and growing dividend," Mr. Woods said. He added that Exxon will buy back shares "when needed to return excess liquidity to the shareholders."

Investors like share buybacks because they make existing stock more valuable. Exxon stopped buybacks last year after a long slide in oil prices sapped profits.

Exxon is under investigation for what it knew and disclosed about the link between climate change and burning fossil fuels. Mr. Woods sounded very much like his predecessor, Mr. Tillerson, in acknowledging that climate change is a problem but that oil and gas will continue to be an important part of the energy mix.

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