North American Shale Growth Fuels Strong First-Quarter Results for ConocoPhillips

ConocoPhillips (NYSE: COP  ) announced first-quarter results before the opening bell this morning. The company reported earnings of $2.1 billion, or $1.71 per share, which beat analysts' estimate by $0.25 per share.

The company delivered first-quarter production of 1.53 million barrels of oil equivalent per day, or BOE/d. Adjusted for dispositions and downtime, this represented a 3% year-over-year increase, which puts Conoco on pace to meet its goal of growing production by 3%-5% annually through 2017.

The highlight of the quarter was a 41% year-over-year surge in production in the Eagle Ford and Bakken shale plays. Both plays hit new peaks in daily output, respectively delivering 163,000 BOE/d and 54,000 BOE/d. Ongoing production growth in the Canadian oil sands and ramped-up output from major projects across the globe also contributed to the company's strong production during the quarter.

ConocoPhillips also enjoyed strong margin growth in the first three months of the year. The production ramp-up at the company's high-margin major projects, when combined with higher natural gas and Canadian bitumen prices, provided a boost to Conoco's margins on the quarter. This means ConocoPhillips remains on track to achieve 3%-5% annual margin growth.

CEO Ryan Lance said in the company's earnings release that ConocoPhillips is "off to a great start in 2014." The company's operational performance and strong production growth has it on pace to meet designated targets. This should enable the company to "deliver double-digit returns to shareholders annually," according to Lance.

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