February 1, 2007
Exxon Sets Record on Annual Profits
By CLIFFORD KRAUSS
HOUSTON, Feb. 1 — Exxon Mobil reported a record annual profit on Thursday but a modest decline in fourth-quarter earnings because of falling oil and gas prices. Meanwhile, its competitor Royal Dutch Shell reported an unexpected rise in quarterly earnings, a sign that the industry is still going strong.
The results followed reports by other energy companies in recent days that said easing commodity prices, declining refining and chemical earnings, rising steel and labor costs and higher royalties and taxes had hurt their bottom lines somewhat.
But the shortfalls at all the major companies, including Occidental, ConocoPhillips and Hess, have come after record or near-record previous quarters. With oil and gas prices on the upswing again in recent days, few analysts think the bonanza of profits that energy companies have enjoyed in recent years will end anytime soon.
Exxon, the world’s largest publicly traded oil company, reported profit of $10.3 billion in the fourth quarter. That represented a decline of 4.3 percent from its record profit in the fourth quarter of 2005 and was Exxon’s first quarterly decline in almost three years.
But for the year, Exxon’s profit rose 9 percent from 2005 results to a record of $39.5 billion, the largest annual profit ever for an American company.
Oil prices for the quarter ranged between $55 and $63 a barrel, averaging just shy of $60. That represented a 15 percent decline from the third quarter and was less than 1 percent lower than the fourth quarter of 2005.
Shell reported a profit $5.28 billion, a 21 percent rise from the fourth quarter of 2005. Shell’s annual income of $25.4 billion was also a record.
Production rose 4.1 percent to 3.65 million barrels of oil a day in the fourth quarter.
Oil prices in 2006 averaged $66, $10 higher than the year before, according to a recent Citigroup report on the energy industry. Oil prices reached a high of $77 in July, but they have declined to the low-to-mid $50s due to generally warm weather and the perception of easing tensions in much of Middle East since then.
Natural gas prices declined through much of the year from their peak following the exceptionally active hurricane season in 2005. But they have remained historically high despite the unseasonably warm winter in much of the country.
Henry Hub natural gas prices averaged $6.3 per million cubic feet in the latest quarter, down 46 percent from the fourth quarter in 2005.