Exxon earnings boosted by rebound in crude

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ExxonMobil, the world’s largest listed oil company, has reported earnings per share for the first quarter that were more than double their level in the equivalent period of last year, thanks principally to the rebound in oil and gas prices.

Earnings per share were 95 cents in the first quarter, up from 43 cents in the equivalent period of 2016, and above analysts’ average forecast of 86 cents.

Revenues were below expectations at $63.3bn, however, although still up 35 per cent from 2016.

Darren Woods, the new chief executive who took over from Rex Tillerson at the start of the year, said the results “reflect an increase in commodity prices and highlight our continued focus on controlling costs and operating efficiently”.

The biggest swing in earnings came from oil and gas production outside the US, where profits were $2.3bn, up from $0.8bn in the equivalent period of 2016.

The US production operations made another loss, but of just $18m, down from an $832m loss in the first quarter of last year.

Production volumes dropped by 4 per cent, however, to 4.15m barrels of oil equivalent per day.

Most of that decrease was due to maintenance in Canada and Nigeria, and lower volumes coming to Exxon under production-sharing contracts with the countries where it operates, but even excluding those effects volumes were down 1 per cent.

Profits from refining and chemicals were up 1 per cent at $2.3bn, with an improvement in refining offset by a downturn in chemicals.

Cash flows have also improved strongly. Cash from operations was $8.2bn, with another $0.7bn from asset sales, enabling the company to cover both its capital and exploration spending of $4.2bn and its dividend payments of $3.1bn.

On Wednesday Exxon surprised analysts with a smaller than expected increase in the dividend for the second quarter to 77 cents.

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