Exxon 3Q profit falls by nearly half amid low oil prices

By David Koenig, AP Business Writer

Exxon Mobil Corp. posted its worst third quarter in 12 years due to low oil prices but still earned $4.24 billion, beating Wall Street expectations.

DALLAS (AP) — Exxon Mobil Corp. posted its worst third quarter in 12 years due to low oil prices but still earned $4.24 billion, beating Wall Street expectations.

Exxon's earnings from exploration and production continued to slide, especially in the United States. However, profit doubled in the refining end of its business on stronger margins, and the chemicals segment was steady.

Exxon Mobil is dealing with oil prices that have dropped by half since June 2014 and have remained lower for longer than most industry experts expected. With production outstripped modest demand growth, it's unclear when prices will start rising.

CEO Rex Tillerson pledged a "relentless focus" on controlling costs. The company slashed capital and exploration spending by about one-fifth from a year ago, but it spent more on shareholder dividends.

The oil giant reported Friday that third-quarter profit slid 47 percent from the same period last year and was the smallest third-quarter gain since 2003, when oil prices were around $30 a barrel.

The earnings worked out to $1.10 per share. That beat the average estimates of analysts surveyed by Zacks Investment Research and FactSet, who predicted 89 cents per share.

Revenue dropped 37 percent to $67.34 billion. The FactSet analysts had expected $61.71 billion.

Exxon's profit from exploration and production dropped from $6.5 billion to $1.4 billion, including a loss of $442 million in the U.S. Production rose due to new projects in the U.S., Canada and elsewhere.

So-called downstream earnings from refining and selling petroleum products jumped from $1 billion to $2 billion on higher refining margins.

In morning trading, shares of the Irving, Texas-based company rose 28 cents to $82.51. They ended Thursday down 11 percent this year while the Standard & Poor's 500 index had climbed 1.5 percent.

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