Exxon Mobil posts biggest US quarterly profit ever

By: AP
By: AP

HOUSTON (AP) -- Exxon Mobil Corp., the world's largest publicly traded oil company, reported income Thursday that shattered its own record for the biggest profit from operations by a U.S. corporation, earning $14.83 billion in the third quarter.

The Irving, Texas-based company has reported unprecedented back-to-back quarters, the end of the most recent coinciding with a rapid plunge in crude prices. Benchmark oil prices fell another $2.21 to $65.29 Thursday on the New York Mercantile Exchange, about 56 percent off record highs in July.

Exxon said net income jumped nearly 58 percent to $2.86 a share in the July-September period. That compares with $9.41 billion, or $1.70 a share, a year ago.

The previous record for U.S. corporate profit was set in the last quarter, when Exxon Mobil earned $11.68 billion.

Revenue rose 35 percent to $137.7 billion.

On average, analysts expected the company to earn $2.39 per share in the latest quarter on revenue of $131.4 billion.

Company shares fell 90 cents to $73.75 at the open of trade.

Exxon Mobil's results got a boost of $1.62 billion in the most-recent quarter from the sale of a natural gas transportation business in Germany. It also took a special, after-tax charge of $170 million related to a punitive damages award related to the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill.

Excluding those items, third-quarter earnings amounted to $13.38 billion - nearly 15 percent above its previous profit record from the second quarter.

As expected, Exxon Mobil posted massive earnings at its exploration and production, or upstream, arm, where net income rose 48 percent to $9.35 billion. Higher oil and natural gas prices propelled results, even though production was down from the third quarter a year ago.

Oil producers are coming off a quarter during which crude prices reached an all-time high of $147.27 - and their profits have reflected it. Crude prices, however, have quickly fallen 50 percent from the summer's highs, and the global economic malaise has raised questions about energy demand at least into 2009.

Some companies, especially smaller producers, are scaling back spending on new exploration and production projects because of the uncertainty, though analysts say that its less likely to happen at the well-heeled giants like Exxon Mobil.


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