OIL PRICES SHOCK AND AWE: GAS CRISIS
An $8.4B tiger in Exxon’s tank
As drivers reel from $3-a-gallon gas, oil giant pulls in record first-quarter earnings; politicians push new energy policies
Exxon Mobil Corp. brought home huge barrels of money in the first three months of the year – more than any first quarter in company history, the oil giant said yesterday – but it was less than Wall Street expected during a time of sky-high energy prices.
The Irvine, Texas-based company’s $8.4 billion net income for the quarter added fuel to accusations from politicians, state officials and consumer groups that the oil industry is pocketing hefty profits while motorists grapple with $3-a-gallon gas.
Exxon Mobil’s earnings for the quarter were equal to $1.37 per share, up from $7.9 billion in profit, or $1.22 a share, for the same period last year. Wall Street analysts were expecting net income averaging $1.47 a share, according to a survey by Thomson Financial.
Exxon Mobil blamed the shortfall on extra taxes, lower fuel production because of refinery maintenance and an uptick in oil and natural gas production costs. Litigation expenses also rose, the company said.
The company’s three-month record for net income came at the end of 2005, when fourth-quarter profit totaled $10.7 billion. The full-year net profit of $36.1 billion was the highest ever for a U.S. corporation.
The company’s share price closed down 68 cents at $62.42 yesterday, a day when many oil stocks fell along with the cost of crude oil. Futures for U.S. benchmark crude oil, which rose above $75 a barrel last week, fell 96 cents to $70.97 on the New York Mercantile Exchange.
“We understand that people are quite upset by the current prices that they’re paying at the pump,” Exxon Mobil spokesman Kenneth Cohen told reporters during a conference call. But global energy prices are rising because demand is outpacing supply, he said, “and what Exxon Mobil’s working hard to do is to increase supplies.”
In Washington, politicians bombarded with gas-price complaints have been busy lambasting oil company greed and pushing a flurry of new energy policies. Legislation involving antitrust laws, a windfall profits tax and other items are all on the table.
The company’s quarterly revenue totaled nearly $89 billion, up from $82 billion a year earlier. Cohen said Exxon Mobil paid $7 billion in income taxes and another $18.6 billion in excise and other taxes.
During the first quarter, oil and natural gas production volume rose 5 percent to the equivalent of 4.6 million barrels of oil as higher output in Africa, the Middle East and Russia more than made up for declines in North America.
The company sold its raw product for an average price of $55.99 a barrel in the U.S. during the quarter, up from $42.70 a barrel in the first quarter of 2005. Earnings for that segment totaled $6.4 billion, up 3.8 percent.
Company officials said U.S. gas stocks appear adequate for the summer driving season and that its facilities have completed the switch to ethanol-blended gas from the additive MTBE, which is said to contaminate groundwater.
The oil company spent $4.8 billion on oil and natural gas exploration projects, a 41 percent increase.
Exxon Mobil also paid out $2 billion in shareholder dividends and spent $5 billion to buy back company shares – a share purchase program that will be increased to $6 billion for each of the remaining three quarters, the company said.
Here’s some more fun facts about the good folks at ExxonMobil. From Newsday, April 24:
TRENTON, N.J. — A man whose asbestos-contaminated work clothing led to the death of his wife can sue the company that owned the property where he came into contact with the deadly material, New Jersey’s Supreme Court ruled Monday.
Eleanor Olivo never worked on the asbestos-covered pipes to which her husband was exposed, but she washed his work clothes. The court said Exxon Mobil, which owned the property, should have known she was in danger.
From AP, May 4:
A House committee has asked Exxon Mobil Corp., for detailed information about a lucrative retirement package given to its former chairman, Lee Raymond, calling it an “exorbitant payout” when motorists are paying $3 a gallon for gasoline.
Raymond, who recently retired, was given a total package of nearly $400 million including salary, bonus, stock options and a one-year $1 million consulting arrangement.
The request was made as the House Energy and Commerce Committee sent letters to the country’s five biggest oil companies, including Exxon Mobil, seeking detailed information about the companies’ spending and investment priorities in light of huge profits over the past year as crude prices jumped to a recent high of more than $75 a barrel.
From Dow Jones, May 4:
With all the talk about imposing a windfall profits tax on big oil, it will surprise many people to learn that oil companies are already paying such taxes – just not to the United States.
In much of the developing world where oil companies drill today, foreign companies gain access on strict terms that commonly include production sharing contracts. Known as PSCs, the contracts provide oil companies guarantees to cover their capital costs and, in return, impose a tax structure that escalates with the volume pumped and in some cases with the price of oil.
The United States, by comparison, imposes a royalty on oil pumped from public resources, but doesn’t have a mechanism that adjusts taxes to the volume or value of the commodity. The result is, oil companies pay windfall taxes in many places, not all.
Nope, not in the good ol’ US of A.
See our last post on the oil shock.