McMoRan Exploration (NYSE: MMR) reported earnings on Jan. 17. Here are the numbers you need to know.

The 10-second takeaway
For the quarter ended Dec. 31 (Q4), McMoRan Exploration beat expectations on revenues and beat expectations on earnings per share.

Compared to the prior-year quarter, revenue expanded significantly, and earnings per share improved. The profit was a surprise, as analysts had predicted a loss.

Margins expanded across the board.

Revenue details
McMoRan Exploration logged revenue of $122 million. The three analysts polled by S&P Capital IQ hoped for revenue of $116 million. Sales were 23% higher than the prior-year quarter's $95 million

Source: S&P Capital IQ. Quarterly periods. Dollar amounts in millions.

EPS details
EPS came in at $0.16. The six earnings estimates compiled by S&P Capital IQ anticipated -$0.13 per share. GAAP EPS were $0.16 for Q4 versus -$0.83 per share for the prior-year quarter.

Source: S&P Capital IQ. Quarterly periods. Figures may be non-GAAP to maintain comparability with estimates.

Margin details
For the quarter, gross margin was 62.9%, 290 basis points better than the prior-year quarter. Operating margin was 3.4%, 3,360 basis points better than the prior-year quarter. Net margin was 31.8%, 6,190 basis points better than the prior-year quarter.

Looking ahead
Next quarter's average estimate for revenue is $116 million. On the bottom line, the average EPS estimate is -$0.19.

Next year's average estimate for revenue is $502 million. The average EPS estimate is -$0.66.

Investor sentiment
The stock has a five-star rating (out of five) at Motley Fool CAPS, with 496 members out of 514 rating the stock outperform, and 19 members rating it underperform. Among 139 CAPS All-Star picks (recommendations by the highest-ranked CAPS members), 133 give McMoRan Exploration a green thumbs-up, and six give it a red thumbs-down.

Of Wall Street recommendations tracked by S&P Capital IQ, the average opinion on McMoRan Exploration is outperform, with an average price target of $17.81.

Seth Jayson had no position in any company mentioned here at the time of publication. You can view his stock holdings here. He is co-advisor of Motley Fool Hidden Gems, which provides new small-cap ideas every month, backed by a real-money portfolio. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.