With Crude Sliding, You've Gotta Love Exxon's Earnings

Perhaps with crude oil and gasoline prices down severely from their early quarter highs, ExxonMobil (NYSE: XOM  ) will be able to get by with having blown away its quarterly earnings record. Maybe, just maybe, the windfall profits crowd will give the company a pass on this one.

Today, ExxonMobil reported its third-quarter results, following those of ConocoPhillips (NYSE: COP  ) , and BP (NYSE: BP  ) , and preceding those of Chevron (NYSE: CVX  ) . Thus far, the members of Big Oil that have reported have performed well. However, the decline in commodities prices likely will hurt next quarter's earnings for the gang.

For the quarter, Exxon's net income reached $14.83 billion, or $2.86 a share, compared with $9.41 billion, or $1.70 a share. If you're keeping score, that's a 57.6% increase on the net income line. Exxon's net income shattered its previous record, set last quarter, by about 27%. On the revenue line, the company posted $137.7 billion, up 34.6% over last year.

Earnings clearly benefited from balance among the company's major units in the quarter. The upstream segment, excluding the sale of the German natural gas transportation business, earned $9.35 billion year over year, an increase of 49%. Nevertheless, in what may be the most significant figure in the company's release, liquids volumes -- excluding lower entitlement volumes and taking into account the two hurricanes in the Gulf of Mexico in September -- declined 5% year over year. Global natural gas production also slid during the quarter.

The downstream operations for the world's biggest non-government oil company increased by 51%. As was the case with most other integrated companies, lower crude oil costs improved refining margins.

Looking quickly at other costs during the quarter, Exxon's capital and exploration spending totaled $6.85 billion, up 26% from the third quarter of 2007. At the same time, the company spent $8 billion on stock buybacks during the quarter, reducing its total number of shares by 2.1%.

It's obviously impossible to predict where crude prices will be six months or a year from now. Nevertheless, I think it's important to point out that while Exxon's share prices have declined, they're down less than most of the other companies in the industry. At the same time, with about $40 billion in cash on its balance sheet last quarter, and with production costs beginning to hit some of the smaller producers, I'd urge Fools to remain mindful of the opportunities that could open up to this company -- the biggest publicly held company, based on market cap.

ExxonMobil has four stars -- out of five -- in the Motley Fool CAPS game. Does that include your vote?

For related Foolishness:

Fool contributor David Lee Smith doesn't own shares in any of the companies mentioned above. He does, solicit your questions, comments, or unanswerable questions about the future of crude prices. The Fool has a disclosure policy.


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