- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 7, 2009

RAS LAFFAN, Qatar | The head of Exxon Mobil Corp. said Monday the company is not planning to shrink its staff or cut back on investment because of the global economic downturn.

Chairman and Chief Executive Rex Tillerson said the world's largest publicly traded oil company expects to spend $129 billion on new projects over the next five years.

That figure “spans across the entire scope” of the Irving, Texas-based company's business, including oil and gas exploration, as well as refining, he said.

“Our business plans are developed with a very long view in mind,” Mr. Tillerson said after the inauguration of a liquefied natural gas plant in the Persian Gulf state of Qatar. “So, the fact that we're in a temporary economic downturn - and it will be temporary; it will turn - really does not affect our business plans at all.”

Last month, Mr. Tillerson said Exxon Mobil's capital spending would hit $29 billion this year, up from the $26.1 billion it spent in 2008. He said at the time that spending levels likely would stay in the $25 billion to $30 billion range through 2013.

Years of high oil prices and a strategy of hoarding cash have left Exxon better positioned to weather the recession than many U.S. companies and some industry peers. The energy giant posted a record profit last year of $45.2 billion and had $31 billion in cash at the end of 2008.

Mr. Tillerson appeared to rule out layoffs, at least for now.

“In terms of our employment levels, no change,” he said Monday. “We're still hiring.”

Mr. Tillerson was in Qatar for the official opening of the Qatargas 2 liquefied natural gas project. The initiative, thought to cost more than $13 billion, involves the largest production equipment and tanker vessels of their kind.

Qatargas 2 includes two production lines known as trains. The fossil fuel is cooled at facilities in the port of Ras Laffan to turn it into a liquid for easier transport. It is then converted back into gas at its destination.

Exxon Mobil owns 30 percent of one train and 18.3 percent of another. French oil producer Total SA has a 16.7 percent stake in one of the trains, and state-owned Qatar Petroleum owns the rest.

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