Oil giant Exxon Mobil Corp. on Thursday posted the largest annual profit by a U.S. company — $39.5 billion — even as earnings for the last quarter of 2006 declined 4 percent.
The 2006 profit topped Exxon Mobil’s own previous record of $36.13 billion set in 2005.
Revenue at the world’s largest publicly traded oil company rose to $377.64 billion for the year, surpassing the record $370.68 billion Exxon posted in 2005.
“Exxon Mobil continued to leverage its globally diverse resource base to bring additional crude oil and natural gas to market,” Rex W. Tillerson, chairman of the Irvin, Texas-based company, said in a statement.
Exxon Mobil’s record annual earnings followed a year of extraordinarily high energy prices as crude oil topped $78 a barrel in the summer — driving up average gasoline prices in the United States to more than $3 a gallon. Prices retreated later in the year.
The fourth-quarter decline reflects lower profits from Exxon’s refining and marketing operations and a sharp drop-off in natural gas prices.
Results for the October-December period mimicked those of U.S. competitor ConocoPhillips, which last week said its fourth-quarter profit fell 13 percent — also primarily because of lower natural gas prices and refining margins. But hefty earnings earlier in the year helped Houston-based ConocoPhillips record its most profitable year on record, earning $15.55 billion.
ConocoPhillips is the nation’s third-largest integrated oil company behind Exxon Mobil and Chevron Corp., which is scheduled to report 2006 results Friday.
Also Thursday, Royal Dutch Shell PLC reported a 21 percent rise in fourth-quarter earnings, buoyed in part by high energy prices and the sale of some operations. Net profit came to $5.28 billion, up from $4.37 billion. But excluding divestitures and other one-time items, Shell’s earnings from oil production fell 3 percent, while fourth-quarter sales were flat at $75.5 billion.
The Anglo-Dutch company also said it had taken important steps to bulk up its proven reserves, which were revealed to have been inflated in a 2004 accounting scandal.
At Exxon Mobil, profit for the fourth quarter of 2006 declined to $10.25 billion from the $10.71 billion Exxon earned in the 2005 quarter — a record quarterly profit for any U.S. public company. That best-ever profit came when the price of both natural gas and crude oil skyrocketed in the wake of hurricanes Katrina and Rita, which damaged wells, pipelines and refineries in the key energy-producing Gulf of Mexico.
Analysts largely have predicted declines in fourth-quarter earnings for the big U.S. oil companies because of the moderation in prices.
Exxon Mobil’s per-share earnings in the fourth quarter rose to $1.76 from $1.71 as the company reduced the number of shares outstanding. Wall Street analysts polled by Thomson Financial had forecast earnings of $1.51 a share.
Excluding special items, Exxon Mobil earned $9.84 billion, or $1.69 a share, in the final three months of 2006.
Quarterly revenue fell to $90 billion from $99 billion in the year-ago period. For the year, Exxon earned $6.62 per share in 2006 versus $5.71 per share in 2005.