By Joe Carroll and Fred Pals
Oct. 30 (Bloomberg) -- Exxon Mobil Corp. and Royal Dutch Shell Plc, the world's biggest oil companies, posted gains in third-quarter earnings after crude's surge to an all-time high made up for slumping production.
Exxon Mobil netted $14.8 billion, up 58 percent from a year earlier, according to a statement today by the Irving, Texas- based company. Profit excluding one-time costs and gains was the highest ever for a U.S. corporation. Shell, based in the Hague, said its net income rose 22 percent to $8.45 billion. Both companies exceeded analyst earnings estimates.
Oil futures in New York averaged more than $118 a barrel, up 57 percent from a year earlier, the biggest third-quarter increase on record. After reaching a high-water mark above $147 a barrel in July, oil tumbled $80 as growth in fuel demand slowed to the lowest rate in 15 years.
``I think we're going to see obviously the peak here, and then the fourth quarter will be significantly lower unless things turn around fast,'' said Matti Teittinen, an analyst with IHS Herold in Boston.
Exxon Mobil fell $2.09, or 2.8 percent, to $72.56 at 10:45 a.m. in New York Stock Exchange composite trading, sliding along with oil futures. The stock has dropped 23 percent this year, heading for its worst decline since 1974. Shell's Class A shares in London fell 68 pence, or 4 percent, to 1,637 pence.
Exxon Mobil's per-share profit excluding such items as a gain on a pipeline sale was $2.59, 18 cents higher than the average of 13 analyst estimates compiled by Bloomberg. Shell's profit excluding such items as gains from inventories was $8.04 billion, 9.1 percent higher than the average of 7 analyst estimates compiled by Bloomberg.
Ike and Gustav
``The oil majors are coming all above expectations, which means they have resilient qualities,'' said Jason Kenney, an analyst at ING Wholesale Banking in Edinburgh. ``They show the benefit of being an integrated company, and they have the flexibility to weather the storm.''
Hurricanes Ike and Gustav, which struck the U.S. Gulf Coast last month, may have contributed to the positive surprises by leading to wider profit margins on refined fuels, said Philip Weiss, an analyst at Argus Research in New York.
``The hurricanes knocked out some operations and that really benefited the spreads for anyone who still had production up and running,'' Weiss said.
Exxon Mobil's refineries earned $3 billion in the quarter, a 51 percent increase from a year earlier. Shell's profit from refining jumped 40 percent to $2.3 billion as diesel prices in Europe rose 17 percent to a record.
Profits from oil and gas sales surged even as production slid. Exxon Mobil's output fell 8.2 percent, the most since at least 1997, to the equivalent of 3.6 million barrels of oil a day, the lowest since Exxon Corp. bought Mobil Corp. in 1999.
Shell's production fell 6.6 percent and dropped to below 3 million barrels of oil equivalent a day for the first time in more than a decade.
London-based BP Plc said earlier this week that its net income rose 83 percent to $8.05 billion, exceeding analyst estimates. Chevron Corp., Exxon's biggest U.S. rival, is scheduled to report earnings tomorrow.
Houston-based ConocoPhillips, the third-largest U.S. oil company, said last week that its profit jumped 41 percent to $5.19 billion.
Marathon Oil Corp., the No. 4 U.S. oil company, said today that its third-quarter profit doubled, partly on a gain in the value of contracts that lock in crude prices paid by its refineries. Marathon said its board approved two deepwater projects in the Gulf of Mexico that will cost $1.6 billion.
Shell said it's delaying a decision on its Athabasca oil- sands project in Alberta because of rising costs.
Exxon Mobil will maintain annual capital budgets of about $25 billion through 2012, regardless of changes in oil prices, Chief Executive Officer Rex Tillerson told reporters Oct. 20 at an industry meeting in Scottsdale, Arizona.
Last Updated: October 30, 2008 10:54 EDT