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Oil Profits Shatter Records

JOHN PORRETTO | July 31, 2008 01:58 PM EST | AP

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In this May 1, 2008, file photo, a customer pumps gas at an Exxon station in Middleton, Mass. Exxon Mobil Corp. reported second-quarter earnings of $11.68 billion Thursday, July 31, the biggest quarterly profit ever by any U.S. corporation, but the results were well short of Wall Street expectations and its shares fell as markets opened. (AP Photo/Lisa Poole, File)

HOUSTON — Exxon Mobil Corp. reported second-quarter earnings of $11.68 billion Thursday, the biggest profit from operations ever by any U.S. corporation, but the results were well short of Wall Street expectations and its shares slumped 3 percent.

The world's largest publicly traded oil company said net income for the April-June period came to $2.22 a share, up from $10.26 billion, or $1.83 a share, a year ago.

Revenue rose 40 percent to $138.1 billion from $98.4 billion in the year-earlier quarter.

Excluding an after-tax charge of $290 million related to an Exxon Valdez court settlement, earnings amounted to $11.97 billion, or $2.27 per share.

Analysts on average expected Exxon Mobil to earn $2.52 a share on revenue of $144 billion, according to a survey by Thomson Financial. The estimates typically exclude one-time items.

The record-setting results were largely expected, given that crude prices in the second quarter were nearly double what they were a year ago. Natural gas prices were significantly higher too.

But investors expected even bigger profits Thursday, especially after Europe's Royal Dutch Shell reported a 33 percent jump in second-quarter earnings to $11.6 billion, which fell just shy of Exxon's own record earnings from 2007.

Exxon Mobil shares fell $2.64, or 3.13 percent, to $81.74 in afternoon trading.

Setting U.S. profit records has become commonplace for Irving-based Exxon Mobil. The $11.68 billion topped its own U.S. record of $11.66 billion, posted in the fourth quarter of last year. Right behind that was the $10.9 billion it reported to start 2008.

In fact, if one-time gains like bankruptcy settlements and spinoffs are stripped away from other companies, Exxon Mobil owns the record for the top 10 most-profitable quarters for a U.S. company, as well as the largest annual profit.

United Airlines' UAL Corp. reported first-quarter profits of $22.9 billion in 2006, but that reflected a bankruptcy settlement, not true profit. The airline would have posted a $306 million loss if those gains were stripped out.

Ford Motor Corp. reported profits of $17.6 billion in the first quarter of 1998, but that included a $16 billion, one-time gain from the spinoff of Associates First Capital.

Exxon Mobil, which produces 3 percent of the world's oil, got its biggest boost from its exploration and production arm, where earnings rose 68 percent to $10.01 billion from $5.95 billion a year ago. The main driver was record crude prices, partially offset by lower sales volumes and higher operating costs.

Once again, Exxon Mobil's results revealed a troubling trend at the heart of its business.

Production on an oil-equivalent basis fell 8 percent from a year ago _ a significant blow for a company that generates more than two-thirds of its earnings from oil and gas production. That follows an opening quarter of 2008 when the company said overall production fell 5.6 percent from a year ago.

Excluding last year's loss of its Venezuelan assets, a labor strike in Nigeria and lower volumes because of production-sharing contracts, Exxon said production was down about 3 percent in the most-recent quarter.

Like its competitors, Exxon Mobil said it took a beating from lower global refining margins. Earnings from refining and marketing fell 54 percent in the quarter to $1.55 billion.

For the first six months of 2008, Exxon Mobil said it earned $22.57 billion, or $4.25 a share, from $19.54 billion, or $3.45 a share, in the first half of 2007. Revenue rose to $254.9 billion from $185.5 billion.

Filed by Katharine Zaleski  |  Report Corrections