Exxon reports $36B in profits
By Steve Quinn
By Steve Quinn
DALLAS — Exxon Mobil Corp. yesterday posted record profits for any U.S. company — $10.71 billion for the fourth quarter and $36.13 billion for the year — as the world's biggest publicly traded oil company benefited from high oil and natural-gas prices and solid demand for refined products.
The results exceeded Wall Street expectations and Exxon shares rose, but some lawmakers expressed outrage at the industry's latest profit surge, renewing calls for a windfall profits tax and increased investment in alternative fuels.
The company's earnings amounted to $1.71 per share for the October-December quarter, up 27 percent from $8.42 billion, or $1.30 per share, in the year ago quarter. The result topped the then-record quarterly profit of $9.92 billion Exxon posted in the third quarter of 2005.
Exxon's profit for the year was also the largest annual reported net income in U.S. history, according to Howard Silverblatt, a senior index analyst for Standard & Poor's. The previous high was Exxon's $25.3 billion profit in 2004.
"What do you expect when you combine record oil and gas prices and strong operations everywhere else?" said analyst Fadel Gheit at Oppenheimer & Co. "Unless prices collapse, earnings in 2006 will make 2005 look like a cake walk."
The company said its average sale price for crude oil in the U.S. during the quarter was $52.23 a barrel, compared with $38.85 a year earlier.
Exxon's vice president of investor relations Henry Hubble said that while strong commodity prices helped drive the record earnings, the company also deserved credit for its ability to complete projects on time while keeping costs in check.
"We continue to identify world-class projects, post industry-leading returns, and are well-placed for continued growth," Hubble said. "Our record results show a disciplined approach and we continue to deliver superior value to our shareholders."
The oil industry's stellar results have renewed talk for a windfall profit tax that would push companies to invest more in new production and refining capacity.
Sen. Barbara Boxer, a California Democrat who sharply criticized oil executives appearing before Congress in November, on Friday called on the Bush administration and the Federal Trade Commission to "put an end to gouging." She then suggested that FTC stood for "Friend to Chevron."
Exxon shares rose $1.82, or almost 3 percent, to close at $63.11 on the New York Stock Exchange.