Shale Growth Fuels ConocoPhillips' Fourth-Quarter Profit

America's largest independent oil and gas company, ConocoPhillips (NYSE: COP  ) , reported fourth-quarter earnings this morning. The company's profit rose to $2.5 billion or $2.00 per share thanks to gains on asset sales completed in the quarter. Adjusting for those gains the company earned $1.40 per share, which was above the $1.33 per share that analysts were expecting. Those earnings, however, were down from the $1.43 per share that the company earned in last year's fourth-quarter.

Oil and gas production out of U.S. shale formations were strong on the quarter. Combined production from the Eagle Ford, Bakken and Permian Basin rose by 31% when compared to the fourth quarter of 2012. This was despite the fact that much of the company's production in these regions was negatively affected by weather-related downtime.

The other major highlight on the quarter was that ConocoPhillips completed the sale of its strategic interest in Kashagan as well as its Algerian business. These sales brought in $7 billion in proceeds, which boosted the company's non-adjusted earnings.

During the quarter the company also started up production at several of its major projects. In Europe, both Ekofisk South and Jasmin started up, while preparations are under way for full-field start-up at Gumusut and Siakap North-Petai in Asia. These projects will drive production growth for ConocoPhillips in 2014 and should help the company reach its goal to raise its production by 3%-5% on the year. 

Overall, the transitional quarter was solid. While the company saw production declines through much of its portfolio, it expects to see production rise this year as new projects come online. These projects, when combined with further shale growth, have ConocoPhillips positioned to deliver solid results in 2014. 

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