ExxonMobil posts biggest quarterly profit ever, $14.8B
— -- Shares of the world's largest oil company inched higher despite the steep drop in crude prices that is expected to crimp fourth-quarter earnings. Shares closed at $75.05, up 0.5%.
"I wouldn't expect the fourth-quarter to be anywhere near as" robust, says Argus Research analyst Phil Weiss.
ExxonMobil earned $14.8 billion, or $2.86, a share, vs. $9.4 billion, or $1.70 a share, a year ago. Sales soared 35% to $138 billion.
The previous record for U.S. corporate profit was set in the last quarter, when ExxonMobil earned $11.68 billion.
Setting U.S. profit records has become commonplace for the oil giant.
If one-time gains like bankruptcy settlements and spinoffs are stripped away from other companies, ExxonMobil owns the record for the top 10 most-profitable quarters for a U.S. company, as well as the largest annual profit.
Even excluding one-time items, the company still posted a record $13.4 billion in net income, or $2.59 a share. Analysts expected per-share earnings of $2.38. The items included a $1.6 billion gain from the sale of a natural gas-related business in Germany.
Income from oil and natural gas sales increased 46% from the year-ago quarter to $9.4 billion. Yet that's down from $10 billion in the second quarter as the price of crude began to plunge from its July record of about $147 a barrel.
Crude prices have fallen below $70 and analysts surveyed by Thomson expect fourth-quarter earnings to dip 8% vs. a year ago.
Lower output is an even bigger concern. Production fell 8% in the quarter, partly because Hurricanes Ike and Gustav shut down much of the company's facilities in the Gulf and oil-exporting nations slashed U.S. companies' share of output when crude prices rose. The company said the hurricanes reduced production by 24,000 barrels of oil equivalent a day and storm-related expenses will cut fourth-quarter earnings by $500 million.