May 7, 2019 / 4:21 PM / 12 days ago

Shale producer Pioneer Natural Resources to slash executive ranks

HOUSTON, May 7 (Reuters) - Pioneer Natural Resources said on Tuesday it has asked nearly a third of its executives to leave as the U.S. shale producer continues to trim costs and considers selling more assets.

The company expects to save $100 million annually with the job cuts and a new organizational structure, Chief Executive Scott Sheffield said during an earnings call. The Irving, Texas-based oil and gas producer expects to shed the employees on a voluntary and involuntary basis by June 1.

Shale firms have pushed U.S. oil output to record levels. But years of heavy spending led to investor pressure to reduce spending and use the cash to pay dividends and repurchase shares.

"The big change is to treat capital just as important as production," Sheffield said.

The company did not say how many executives will leave and did not respond to a request for comment.

On Monday, Pioneer reported its first-quarter profit jumped to $350 million, or $2.06 per share, from $178 million, or $1.04 per share, a year ago.

It plans to sell a share of its gas processing infrastructure and may sell its water infrastructure, Sheffield said. On Monday, Pioneer disclosed it had sold its Eagle Ford Shale acreage and remaining assets in South Texas for up to $475 million to become a purely Permian Basin producer.

Sheffield, the company's founder, returned as CEO after veteran executive Tim Dove abruptly retired in February. (Reporting by Jennifer Hiller Editing by Paul Simao)

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