[Editor's note: A version of this story appears in the June 2021 issue of Oil and Gas Investor magazine.]

To dividend or not to dividend? That is the question.

It’s all about the investor: Put some money into his or her pocket. Stock appreciation comes first. Since last fall, investors should be pleased: Most E&P equities have soared. Some have more than doubled or tripled, albeit rebounding from woeful lows.

Stock buybacks also are a popular way to add value as investors now demand—and expect—returns from an energy industry that historically has performed badly on that score. But paying a dividend is gathering a lot of traction. As free cash flow (FCF) is reached, more E&P companies can consider it. This makes sense because paying one is a key trait of mature companies in mature industries, which the shale world is becoming.

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