SWOT Analysis Paper

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Assignment: SWOT Analysis of Two Oil Companies. One International Oil Companies [IOC] and One National Oil Companies [NOC]

Your Assignment

You are a researcher for an industry journal, which is planning to run a feature on the different management styles and cultures between International Oil Companies [IOCs] and National Oil Companies [NOCs], and whether these can be linked to the company’s past success and thus possibly be a guide to their future potential.

You have been asked to prepare a professional report on one IOC and one NOC as to their present status and future potential; the potential readership are would-be investors, and thus your report should guide this audience to decide to heavily invest or not in the companies.

Your work should provide a balanced, analytical view of whether the two companies would make suitable investment vehicles, based on their management style and culture and their organisational structure – there should be no attempt to recommend one company over the other. This is NOT a selling exercise.

The Report should be much more than a simple description of their structure and operations. You must provide a critical evaluation of their strengths and weaknesses, together with the opportunities and threats that exist in their markets. Therefore a good starting point for your Report will be a SWOT analysis of each of your chosen companies.

Having read the above background, and conducted some preliminary research and reading, your Assignment Brief is to write a 2,300-word report on one IOC and one NOC, chosen from the table below. To complete an effective and detailed Report, you will need to research the chosen companies in considerable depth. Coherent analysis supported with reasoned evidence will be required.

Internet research and background reading will inform a large part of your writing, but what is required, and thus will form the basis of assessment and marking, is your own views, conclusions and analysis by interpreting the data against textbook theory, together with your own ideas, thoughts and personal research on the Internet.

Choices: Choose ONE company from each category only
International Oil Company

National Oil Company


• The Assignment should be written in the third person, in the style of a Report.

• The Assignment should not contain an Abstract, or an Executive Summary, or a restatement of this Assignment Brief. There is no need for a Table of Contents in a short Report.

• There should be a Title Page showing your Name and Student ID; pages must be numbered.

• The following rules are set and mandatory – any work submitted that does not comply, may be subjected to a penalty.

• The main body of the Assignment should cover around 6 or 7 pages of A4 paper, using Times New Roman, font size 12, with 1.5 line spacing.




Introduction. 2

SWOT analysis of ExxonMobil 2

Strengths. 3

Integration of refinery and chemical facilities. 3

Research and development abilities. 3

Strong financial performance. 4

Weaknesses. 4

Lawsuits. 4

Opportunities. 4

Ability to expand assets for increased energy supplies. 4

New liquefied natural gas projects. 5

New product launches. 5

Initiatives targeted at strategic growth areas. 5

Threats. 6

Rising competition. 6

Regulatory constraints. 6

Petronas SWOT analysis. 7

Strengths. 7

Brand strength. 7

Diversity of operations. 8

Huge potential for market growth. 8

Weaknesses. 8

Tarnished reputation arising from environmental pollution. 8

Legal problems. 9

Opportunities. 9

Expanding export market 9

Threats. 9

Regulation and operational constraints posed by national governments. 9

High competition. 10

Management styles and organization culture: ExxonMobil versus Petronas. 10

Conclusion. 11

References. 13


Major differences tend to exist among international oil companies (MOCs) and National Oil Companies (NOCs) in terms of management styles and organizational culture. In many cases, the management style and organizational culture of a company can be linked to past performance, present status, and future potential. For example, the international success at Exxon Mobil, an IOC, is often associated with its culture that embraces conservativeness and strict adherence to values and norms. On the other hand, emphasis on international expansion by the top leadership of Petronas has enabled the company expand its operations into different countries of the world. The aim of this report is to provide a critical analysis of the organizational culture and management styles of ExxonMobil and Petronas.


SWOT analysis of ExxonMobil

ExxonMobil (Exxon Mobil Corporation) is an international oil company (IOC) that specializes in the production of crude oil, natural gas, and other petroleum products. The company is also involved in marketing of oil and gas products as well as related chemicals. ExxonMobil has already succeeded in setting up operations in different parts of the world. In recent years, expansion activities as well as new product launches have been providing a major boost for the company (Beale, 2009). However, the environment in which the company operates is becoming increasingly competitive (Beale, 2009). Stringent regulations also pose a threat to ExxonMobil’s efforts to match up its past successes. Moreover, the company has also been affected by numerous lawsuits that threaten to cripple its business operations.


Integration of refinery and chemical facilities

ExxonMobil has succeeded in establishing its presence in all areas within the value chain of the energy industry (Livesey, 2002). Moreover, it has managed to integrate its refinery and chemical facilities, thereby enabling it produce high-quality products at cow costs. The resulting overlap of processes makes the company fit into the petrochemical production business. An overwhelming level of the company’s chemical capacity is integrated into its refineries and natural gas production facilities.

Today, ExxonMobil is involved in exploration and production activities in 36 countries. It also has interests in about 30 refineries situated in 17 countries. Moreover, the firm owns more than 19, 382 retail service stations operating in more than 100 countries. Over the years, ExxonMobil has succeeded in expanding its operations throughout Canada, the Middle East, the US, Latin America, Europe, Africa and Asia-Pacific.

Research and development abilities

Research and development (R&D) activities are of utmost relevance in the petroleum industry. ExxonMobil is a global leader in R&D. In recent years, the company has been responding to calls for greater environmental awareness by investing heavily in research on alternative energy (Livesey, 2002; Keenan, 2005). The main activities in this regard include the production of hydrogen fuel cells, reduction of consumer emissions, and development of bio-fuels.

Strong financial performance

ExxonMobil has been reporting impressive financial performance over the years. In 2012, the company reported a 7.47% increase in operating income. Moreover, the company’s revenues have been increasing at a higher rate than its expenses. This impressive performance makes the future look bright for the company, thereby increasing investor confidence.



Numerous lawsuits that threaten to cripple ExxonMobil’s operations have emerged in recent years. Although investors are happy about the company’s impressive financial performance, they are also worried because of the increase in legal proceedings that potentially threaten both the company’s day-to-day operations and long-term survival (Skjærseth, 2009). The proceedings add to the company’s expenses, thereby impacting negatively on its financial position.


Ability to expand assets for increased energy supplies

Today, the need for petroleum companies to increase global supply of oil, natural gas, and related products continues to rise. This increases pressure on these companies to expand their upstream segments. ExxonMobil has an opportunity of expanding this unconventional capability through oil sands, deep-water rigs, as well as tight gas facilities. In Canada, the company has already declared its intention to expand a new oil field to produce an additional 700 million barrels of crude oil. The company has also invested in a new production facility in Texas that is targeted to produce over 40 million barrels of crude oil. ExxonMobil may choose to exploit more opportunities that enable it expand the level of its exploration, production, and marketing capabilities.

New liquefied natural gas projects

ExxonMobil has worked on many liquefied natural gas (LNG) projects over the years. These projects have enabled the company gain a better understanding of the range of opportunities existing in this line of business. Based on past trends, the company expects demand for LNG to increase remarkably in future. Most of the company’s expansion efforts in this regard are targeted at the Asian markets where growth in demand is expected to be higher than in other parts of the world.

New product launches

ExxonMobil is famous for releasing new products into the market frequently. One of these products is the Mobil Super Family, a range of motor oils that were introduced into the North American market in 2012. Other products include synthetic esters, lubricants, and low-sulfur diesel. This has greatly contributed to a rapid growth in its energy markets. It has also contributed significantly to shareholder confidence.


Initiatives targeted at strategic growth areas

The company also has a unique capability of identifying and targeting strategic growth areas. This ability drives its quest for new agreements, partnerships, and R&D activities, which are pursued with a view to create new opportunities for expansion. For example, in 2011, the company initiated plans to venture into the Russian Arctic through exploration activities. The talks between the company’s officials and Rosneft, a leading Russian oil company, led to the signing of a strategic partnership agreement in February 2013.


Rising competition

The level of competition in the energy industry is higher today than it used to be in the past (Tenner, 2002). At the same time, the challenges posed by the increased volatility global economic environment makes it more difficult for ExxonMobil to achieve its financial goals (Tenner, 2002). As new technology emerges, competitors are steadfast in making the necessary operational adjustments. This threats the company’s position in terms of energy efficiency and R&D. In countries where politics constitute a major factor that influences the ability to do business in a certain geographical region, ExxonMobil faces the threat of being sidelined merely for political reasons.

Regulatory constraints

The US oil and gas policy has changed significantly in the wake of numerous environmental disasters involving oil and gas companies. These disasters have led to the enactment of new legislation aimed at enabling federal authorities impose stiffer penalties in the form of punitive damages on oil companies that get involved in oil spills. Stricter rules of compliance with environmental requirements have also been imposed in many parts of the world. In the end, these control mechanisms are likely to increase the company’s cost of offshore exploration activities. The regulatory constraints also come in the wake of numerous concerns regarding contamination of water sources by oil companies.

Petronas SWOT analysis

Petroliam Nasional Berhad (Petronas)is a petroleum corporation owned by the Malaysian government. The company also operates in 30 countries. Its core activities include upstream exploration and production of oil and gas, downstream oil refining, and distribution of petroleum products. Petronas is also involved in gas process, liquefaction, and transmission to different pipeline networks (Pirog, 2007). It also engages in the marketing of LNG as well as petrochemical manufacturing. Most of the company’s business operations are in Asia, South America, and Africa. In 2008, the revenues of this Kuala Lumpur-based oil company rose by 16.3 percent compared to the previous financial year to reach $76,979 million. However, during the same year, net profits decreased by 15.4 percent to stand at $15,312 million.


Brand strength

One of the greatest strengths of Petronas is that it is one of the strongest brands in the world today (Hussain, 2005). The company operates in a number of African countries, including South Africa, Algeria, Sudan, and Libya. The company’s brand strength is evident in a number of Asia-Pacific countries, including Myanmar, China, and Vietnam. The company has also succeeded in launching operations in Russia and Australia. Managers at Petronas stated their objective of responding to globalization as far back as 1994. Therefore, the company was able to take advantage of the favorable global business environment to position its brand image strategically.

Diversity of operations

Petronas engaged in a wide variety of business activities relating to oil and gas exploration, production, marketing, and distribution. These activities include upstream oil and gas exploration, downstream oil refining, distribution of oil and gas products, gas liquefaction, and petrochemical manufacturing. However, a number of business initiatives are not related directly related to the oil and gas operations such as property investment, automotive engineering, and shipping. The company owns the Petronas Twin Towers, which happen to be the world’s tallest twin towers.

Huge potential for market growth

The main area where the company is likely to achieve market growth is exploration and production. Petronas has optimized exploration and production activities to ensure that the level of production does not decline as some of its basins both in Malaysia and abroad become mature. The objective of this strategy is to extend the lifecycle of the resources that are currently available.


Tarnished reputation arising from environmental pollution

Petronas often faces criticism for air, land, and water pollution in the countries where it operates (Hussain, 2005; Pirog, 2007). It is perceived to be one of the world’s leading polluters through its exploration and production activities. Environmental activists have continued to rally against the company even after launching initiatives aimed at demonstrating its ability and commitment to reduce pollution.

Legal problems

Petronas has encountered a number of legal problems since its inception. The lawsuits have turned out to be not only costly but also destructive to the company’s image. In most cases, the lawsuits arise from claims of oil royalties, organizational negligence and environmental pollution. In 2012, one of the Malaysian states, Kelantan, filed a lawsuit against Petronas for breach of contract and unpaid loyalties.


Expanding export market

As part of its globalization strategy, Petronas has been focusing greatly on the export market. Since 1994, the company has been pursuing an aggressive internationalization strategy with a view to expand the reach of its petroleum and chemical products (Tordo, 2011; Keller, 2011). More opportunities to expand the company along this dimension still exist.


Regulation and operational constraints posed by national governments

National governments are a major source of constraints on Petronas’ expansion efforts. For example, in December 2012, the Canadian government blocked a $5.2 billion bid by Petronas to acquire Progress Energy, an American oil company. The Canadian ministry of industry stated that it was blocking the takeover bid simply because it would not bring about any benefit to Canada.

High competition

The highest level of competition for Petronas exists on the international front. In the company’s bid to transform itself into an international oil company, it has had to face competition from established IOCs with greater experience in international operations. This competition makes it increasingly difficult for the company to build a competitive edge, thereby threatening its survival.

Management styles and organization culture: ExxonMobil versus Petronas

One of the defining moments of ExxonMobil’s management structure was the 1989 Valdez oil spill (Johnson, 2000). The spill led the company to reevaluate the way all its operations are managed (Johnson, 2000). The company’s management started emphasizing a lot on safety issues. Meanwhile, today, it is difficult to analyze ExxonMobil’s management style without focusing on the leadership style of Rex Tillerson, the company’s Chairman and Chief Executive Officer. Tillerson is famous for acknowledging that his company had contributed to global warming. This was something that his predecessor Lee Raymond never admitted. In fact, Lee was so conservative that he thought that the best time or ExxonMobil was when it stayed out of media limelight.

Tillerson’s leadership style is different in that he likes to use all available public relations opportunities to enhance the company’s image and to provide information about the quality of its corporate operations. Under Tillerson, the organizational culture of ExxonMobil has changed as well. The company no longer abides by the strict code of doing things that used to make employees constrained in terms of what they could or could not do.

In contrast, the management style and organizational culture of Petronas has not changed much since its establishment in 1974. The concept of institutionalized knowledge management has become entrenched in the company’s management hierarchy over the years. The company’s employees have traditionally been encouraged by top management to view Petronas not as an NOC but as an IOC. This explains why the company has for decades promoted the idea of venturing into foreign markets in Africa, Latin America, Middle East, as well as other Asian countries. With such a strong strategic focus, the company is poised to continue thriving in both local and international fronts in the future. However, a culture that puts too much emphasis on globalization is likely to be disadvantageous as far as efforts to deal with local competition are concerned.


NOCs differ from IOCs in terms of the business contexts in which they operate. However, in recent decades, a new trend has emerged whereby NOCs are increasingly venture into the international market. Consequently, differences between these two categories of organizations are becoming increasingly difficult to point out. Meanwhile, it is still important for would-be investors, to understand the scope of challenges being experienced by these companies. The case of ExxonMobil shows that although IOCs benefit from tremendous international experience, they are also vulnerable to criticism by different stakeholders at the global level. This poses a serious threat to its public image as well as future operations.

On the other hand, NOCs such as Petronas are in a unique position to expand their operations internationally. However,  investors may be unwilling to risk their investments in NOCs that put their national operations at risk because of putting too much emphasis on global expansion. Conversely, they may be keen to examine the responsiveness of oil and gas companies to environmental sustainability as one of factors influencing investment decision.


Beale, F 2009, ‘Short-termism and genuineness in environmental initiatives: a comparative case study of two oil companies’, European Management Journal, vol. 27, no. 1, pp. 26–35.

Hussain, A 2005, A case study on Petronas globalization: A strategic management decision, Routledge, London

Johnson, D 2000, ‘Deliberative rhetoric as a step in organizational crisis management: Exxon as a case study’, Communication Reports, vol. 8, no. 1, pp. 54-60.

Keenan, J 2005, ‘Chad-Cameroon Oil Pipeline: World Bank & ExxonMobil in ‘Last Chance Saloon’’, Review of African Political Economy, vol. 32, no. 104, pp. 395-405.

Keller, K 2011, Strategic brand management: Building, measuring, and managing brand equity, Pearson Education, London.

Livesey, S  2002, ‘Global Warming Wars: Rhetorical and Discourse Analytic Approaches to Exxonmobil’s Corporate Public Discourse’, Journal of Business Communication, vol. 39, no. 1, pp. 117-146.

Pirog, R 2007, The role of national oil companies in the international oil market, University of Toronto Press, Canada.

Skjærseth, J 2009, ExxonMobil: Tiger or Turtle on Social Responsibility? Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.

Tenner, A 2002, ExxonMobil Energy Management, Free Press, Baltimore.

Tordo, S 2011, National oil companies and value creation, Blackwell Publishing, New York.

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