[Editor's note: This story was updated at 3:51 p.m. CDT April 30.]
ConocoPhillips Co. beat quarterly profit estimates on April 30, benefiting from higher output from its U.S. shale assets, in a vote of confidence in the oil producer's strategy to refocus its investments in the lucrative Permian Basin, Eagle Ford and Bakken areas.
The company has been selling its noncore assets to invest in its U.S. shale fields, which hold oil and gas deposits that can produce supplies for decades using low-cost drilling techniques.
ConocoPhillips has earmarked about 70% of its capex this year for the United States with about 55% targeting the areas in U.S. and the Gulf of Mexico collectively called the "Lower 48" and Canada.
Total production, excluding operations in Libya, rose by 94,000 barrels of oil equivalent per day (boe/d) to 1.32 million boe/d in the first quarter, with output from the three shale areas up 30% year-over-year.
Analysts at Piper Jaffray's Simmons Energy also attributed the profit beat to better-than-expected price for the company's oil and gas as well as lower-than-expected costs.
Average realized price of $49.23 per barrel of oil equivalent was 9% above the brokerage's estimate, while production and operating expenses were 8.5% lower than what it had anticipated, the analysts wrote in a note.
ConocoPhillips also said it generated $2.94 billion in cash from operations, which included about $130 million pretax gain related to its settlement with Venezuela's state-run oil firm PDVSA International Chamber of Commerce (ICC).
Last year, ConocoPhillips received a $2.04 billion award from the ICC involving broken contracts on some of the same assets. PDVSA agreed to pay the award and delivered $400 million after ConocoPhillips began to seize assets in the Caribbean to enforce the ruling.
Adjusted net earnings came in at $1.15 billion, or $1 per share, in the quarter ended March 31, compared with $1.14 billion, or 96 cents per share, a year earlier.
Analysts on average had expected a profit of 90 cents per share, according to IBES data from Refinitiv.
For the second quarter, the company expects output to be 1.24 million boe/d to 1.28 million boe/d, excluding Libya, on maintenance activities in Alaska, Canada and Europe.
Shares of the company were up 1.7% at $63.75 in early trading.
The move by Baker Hughes comes as oil and gas companies keep their focus on shareholder returns over spending to expand production, even as crude prices climb to their highest levels since 2018.
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