This earnings period hasn't been pleasant for Big Oil. On Thursday, the trend came to a head when the biggest of the publicly traded companies, ExxonMobil
For the period, the company earned $4.7 billion, or $0.98 per share, down from the $14.8 billion, or $2.85 per share, for the same quarter a year ago. And even with special items eliminated, its income still declined by 65% from the 2008's third quarter.
However, Exxon isn't alone in its slippage. Royal Dutch Shell
Exxon's upstream earnings were (excluding special items) $4.0 billion in the quarter, versus $9.3 billion a year ago. Obviously, most of the reduction was tied to lower crude prices and natural gas prices. Nevertheless, the quarter's production rose by almost 3%. And without the effects of OPEC's quotas and divestments, production improved by about 5%.
Downstream -- refining and marketing -- the company's earnings declined to $325 million, from about $3.0 billion last year. As you might suspect, lower margins were the primary culprit there.
But the quarter was still a busy one for Exxon. For instance, a pair of liquefied natural gas (LNG) facilities in which it has an interest began production in Qatar. And the trio of participants in Australia's big Gorgon LNG project -- Chevron
The good news for ExxonMobil and its peers -- only Total
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