Exxon Mobil profit nearly doubles

By Ben Rooney, staff reporter

NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- Exxon Mobil Corp. reported quarterly earnings Thursday that easily beat analysts' expectations on higher crude prices.

The world's largest public energy company reported net income of $7.56 billion, or $1.60 a share, in the second quarter, up 91% from $3.95 billion, or 81 cents a share, in the same period in 2009.

Analysts were expecting earnings of $1.46 a share, according to a survey by Thomson Financial.

Earnings for the first half of 2010, excluding special items, were $13.9 billion, up 60% over the first half of 2009.

Shares of Exxon (XOM, Fortune 500) were little changed in Thursday trading.

Rex Tillerson, Exxon's chief executive officer, said in a statement that the results reflect an increase in oil production, improved profitability in refining and strong performance in the company's chemicals business.

Lower refining profits had weighed on Exxon's results in recent quarters as the weak economy damped fuel consumption and crude prices rose. But margins improved in the second quarter as refining activity picked up ahead of the summer driving season.

Exxon said earnings in its global refining business rose $708 million to $1.22 billion in the quarter, driven by improved profitability. Earnings in the company's chemicals business, its smallest division, jumped $1 billion to $1.37 billion.

The refining and marketing business as well as chemicals "really drove the results," said Pavel Molchanov, an analyst who covers Exxon at Raymond James. But he cautioned that uncertain economic conditions around the world could curb energy demand once the "seasonal bounce" fades.

"There is still over-capacity in the global refining industry," he said. "Exxon is certainly not immune to that."

Meanwhile, the ongoing rebound in oil prices helped boost profit in Exxon's oil production and exploration unit, in which earnings rose $1.5 billion to $5.34 billion in the quarter. Oil prices averaged $78 a barrel in the quarter, up from $60 a barrel in the same period last year.

Deepwater impact

Production was up 8% in the quarter, driven by contributions from Exxon's assets in Qatar.

David Rosenthal, vice president of investor relations, said Exxon does not expect any "significant impact" on its financial performance from the moratorium on deepwater drilling in the Gulf of Mexico.

The ban was imposed earlier this year after a drill rig operated by BP (BP) exploded and gave rise to the worst oil spill in U.S. history.

While the company is eager to get back to work in the Gulf, Exxon currently has no plans to accelerate deepwater projects in other parts of the world due to the moratorium, Rosenthal said.

"There is a slight delay in the Gulf of Mexico, but we're progressing full speed ahead in the rest of the world," Rosenthal said during a conference call with analysts.

Rosenthal declined to speculate about the impact of any new regulations stemming from the spill. Lawmakers are considering legislation that would raise the liability cap that companies are obligated to pay for damage related to oil spills.

However, he said Exxon has been involved in the debate over new deepwater regulations, adding that the company will take advantage of any opportunities that may come out of the process.

The second quarter results included a negligible impact from Exxon's recent purchase of XTO Energy, a natural gas company. The $36 billion deal closed on June 25.

Exxon said it expects natural gas production to triple as a result of the merger, making it the largest U.S. natural gas producer.

Share purchases are expected to total $3 billion in the third quarter, the company said. In the second quarter, the company bought back $1.6 billion worth of its common stock.

Exxon Mobil posted a record $11.7 billion profit in the second quarter of 2008 as oil prices rose near $150 a barrel. But earnings eased for the next six quarters as the global recession took hold and energy prices plunged.

Other energy companies have also announced strong second-quarter results. On Wednesday, ConocoPhillips (COP, Fortune 500) and Hess (HES, Fortune 500) both posted a larger-than-expected quarterly profits. Royal Dutch Shell's earnings came out earlier Thursday. Chevron Corp. (CVX, Fortune 500) is slated to report results Friday.

The exception has been BP, which posted a $17 billion loss Tuesday due to charges stemming from the Gulf spill. To top of page

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