Exxon Mobil Corp. on Oct. 28 smashed expectations as soaring energy prices fueled a record-breaking quarterly profit, nearly matching that of tech giant Apple.
Its $19.66 billion third-quarter net profit far exceeded recently raised Wall Street forecasts as skyrocketing natural gas and high oil prices put its earnings within reach of Apple's $20.7 billion net for the same period.
As recently as 2013, Exxon ranked as the largest publicly traded U.S. company by market value - a position now held by Apple. Exxon shares jumped 2% in premarket trading to $109.80, a new record high.
Oil company profits have soared this year as rising demand and an undersupplied energy market collided with western sanctions against Russia over its invasion of Ukraine. U.S. exports of gas and oil to Europe have jumped and promise to set all-time profit records for the industry.
The top U.S. oil producer reported a per-share profit of $4.68, exceeding Wall Street's $3.89 consensus view, on a huge jump in natural gas earnings, continued high oil prices and strong fuel sales.
"Where others pulled back in the face of uncertainty and a historic slowdown, retreating and retrenching, this company moved forward, continuing to invest," CEO Darren Woods told investors. Its quarterly profits "reflect that deep commitment" as well as higher prices, he added.
Exxon led record gains among oil majors in the second quarter and has leapfrogged Shell Plc and TotalEnergies SE with earnings almost twice as big from continued bets on fossil fuels as competitors shifted investment to renewables.
Exxon banked $43 billion in the first nine months of this year, 19% more than in the same period of 2008, when oil prices traded at a record level of $140 per barrel.
Earnings from pumping oil and gas tripled last quarter while profit from selling motor fuels jumped tenfold compared with year-ago levels. Natural gas sales to Europe and soaring demand for diesel fuel led the company's better-than-expected results.
"The refining businesses - both in the U.S. and international - was the star performer," said Peter McNally, an analyst at Third Bridge.
Those rising fuel profits have renewed calls by U.S. President Joe Biden for companies to invest the windfall from this year's energy price run-up in production rather than buy back their own shares.
Exxon will maintain its $30 billion share buyback through 2023 while increasing dividends, CFO Kathryn Mikells told Reuters. On Oct. 28, it declared a fourth-quarter per-share dividend of 91 cents, up 3 cents, and will pay $15 billion to shareholders this year.
Exxon said its U.S. oil and gas production from the Permian Basin was near 560,000 boe/d, a record. Production for the year will increase about 20% over 2021, said CEO Woods.
"We're optimizing and adjusting our development plans," he told analysts, with the full-year production gain below the 25% increase Exxon had forecast in February.
Results also were helped by an almost 100,000-boe/d increase over the previous quarter in Guyana, where Exxon leads a consortium responsible for all output in the South American nation.
But its withdrawal from Russia reduced its overall production forecast for the year by about 100,000 bbl/d. Exxon said its Russian assets were expropriated.
"We are going to end up at about 3.7 MMbbl/d for the full year," Mikells said, down from a 3.8 MMbbl/d goal set in February.
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