Occidental Petroleum to Move HQ to Houston, Spin Off California Assets

LOS ANGELES (Los Angeles Times/MCT) -

Occidental Petroleum Corp., the Los Angeles-based energy giant, announced Friday that it will move its headquarters to Houston and spin off its California assets into a separate company.

The latest move is part of the company’s strategic overhaul, as it seeks to bolster its profitability and share price after falling behind competitors in recent years.

The move signals the end of a storied run for Occidental in Los Angeles, where it was founded nearly a century ago and grew into the nation’s fourth-largest oil company.

“Creating two separate energy companies will result in more focused businesses that will be competitive industry leaders,” Occidental chief executive Stephen Chazen said in a Friday statement.

A move to Houston will allow the company to focus on its operations in the Permian Basin in Texas and spin off its less-productive California division.

The new California company, which will employ about 8,000 people, will be the state’s biggest natural gas producer and “establish its headquarters” in the Golden State, the statement said. It will continue operations in oil and gas basins including Los Angeles and San Joaquin.

Last year, Occidental announced plans to sell off some stakes in Middle Eastern and North African oil fields, along with other assets, to focus operations closer to home. The shift was intended to streamline its operations and soothe investors, whose unhappiness with its share price resulted in the ousting of longtime chairman Ray Irani last year.

Earlier this week, Occidental said it will sell 1.4 million acres in a Midwestern natural gas field to an unnamed buyer for $1.4 billion, and use part of the money to buy back 30 million shares.

The split into two companies, which still faces final approval by the board of directors, will be completed by the end of 2014 or the early part of 2015, Occidental said. Chazen will remain president and CEO through 2016, which will extend his time at the helm for another two years.