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Exxon Mobil profit surges on high oil prices

Exxon Mobil Corp. said Thursday it earned $10.36 billion in the second quarter, the second- largest quarterly profit ever recorded by a publicly traded company.
/ Source: The Associated Press

The Exxon Mobil profit machine clocked in at $4.7 million per hour in the April-June period as soaring oil prices and higher output boosted the company's performance by 36 percent from a year ago.

The company’s $10.4 billion second-quarter profit, announced Thursday, was the second-best quarterly performance ever for a publicly traded company, drawing praise from Wall Street and ire from some politicians. The only bigger quarterly profit was the $10.7 billion posted generated by Exxon Mobil in last year's final three months.

Royal Dutch Shell PLC accelerated its second-quarter earnings even faster, posting net income of $7.3 billion, an increase of 40 percent from the year before.

Crude oil prices are hovering near $75 a barrel, and analysts do not expect a sharp drop anytime soon given the world’s rising appetite for fuel and supply threats in the Middle East, Africa and beyond that pump fear into the market.

As long as the global economy keeps chugging along, analysts say the industry can expect more record profits this year.

“The rising tide lifts all boats,” Oppenheimer & Co. analyst Fadel Gheit said.

But the oil and gas industry’s profit surge comes as motorists in the U.S. pay an average of $3 a gallon at the pump and as Washington lawmakers consider opening to drilling areas of the Gulf of Mexico currently off-limits — both of which have generated political backlash.

Rep. Edward Markey, D-Mass., said Thursday that American consumers have been “tipped upside down and have (had) their savings shaken out of their pockets at the gas pump.”

Kenneth Cohen, Exxon Mobil Corp.’s vice president of public affairs, said such criticism is misplaced.

“Sometimes I feel like they are trying to run against us as opposed to their opponents,” he said.

Exxon Mobil, the world’s largest publicly traded oil company, understands the climate outside its Irving, Texas, headquarters is one of concern for how gas price volatility affects family budgets, Cohen added.

“What are we doing about it?” Cohen said. “We are investing at record levels.”

Across the globe, energy-intensive businesses such as shippers and chemical manufacturers are feeling the pinch from higher prices, though oil exporting nations, particularly in the Middle East, are experiencing rapid economic growth.

More than two-thirds of Exxon Mobil’s profits were derived from oil and natural-gas production outside the United States, with rising production in Africa, the Middle East and Russia more than offsetting declining output in the United States, Canada and Europe.

Exxon Mobil said it pumped 6 percent more oil and natural gas than it did during the same quarter a year earlier.

“That growth is quite remarkable,” said Tina Vital, equity analyst for Standard & Poor’s.

Other major oil companies reported big numbers for the quarter this week as well.

BP Plc said its quarterly profit rose 30 percent to $7.3 billion. ConocoPhillips said its earnings rose 65 percent to $5.18 billion. Chevron Corp. reports its second-quarter results Friday.

These five were expected to earn a total of $33.6 billion in the quarter, a 32 percent boost, according to analysts surveyed by Thomson Financial. But the first four have already reported earnings of more than $30 billion — a jaw-dropping surprise even for optimistic Wall Street analysts.

Exxon Mobil executives said their success was based on a simple formula: produce more fuel and command higher prices for it.

“We continue to see demand growth year over year,” Henry Hubble, Exxon’s vice president of investor relations, told analysts. “We’re selling everything we can make.”

Exxon Mobil’s second-quarter earnings amounted to $1.72 per share, compared with a profit of $7.64 billion, or $1.20 per share, a year ago.

Revenue rose to $99.03 billion from $88.57 billion in the prior-year quarter. That was short of the company's third-quarter revenue of $100.72 billion — a record for any U.S. public company.

The company's share prices fell slightly Thursday, suggesting the results were in line with expectations.

Congress has been urging the big oil companies to put more of their profits toward boosting the supply of energy for consumers. This week the Senate sought to help out the industry by working on an election-year bill that would open a large area of the central Gulf of Mexico to oil and gas drilling.

By a vote of 86-12 the Senate agreed Wednesday to proceed with the legislation that opponents fear could clear the way to lifting a federal drilling moratorium that has protected 85 percent of the country’s Outer Continental Shelf from New England to Alaska for a quarter century.

Hubble told analysts that Exxon will boost capital spending from the previously stated $19 billion by another $1 billion this year, though one-third of that increase is tied to rising costs for labor and equipment.

Exxon Mobil said its average sale price for crude oil in the U.S. during the quarter was $63.84 a barrel, compared to $45.85 a year earlier.