ExxonMobil (NYSE:XOM) reported its third-quarter results [opens PDF] this morning, with earnings falling 18% from year-ago levels to $7.87 billion. Yet despite a 2.4% decline in revenue to $112.4 billion, Exxon's numbers topped what investors had expected, and gains in oil and natural-gas production reversed falling production levels from earlier in the year.
Exxon's numbers showed sharp disparities among the oil giant's divisions. Upstream earnings, which include Exxon's exploration and production businesses, soared 12% to $6.71 billion, with more than half of the year-over-year gains coming from higher proceeds of oil and gas sales during the quarter. Overall oil-equivalent production rose 1.5%, but those increases were skewed toward the more lucrative oil and liquids side of the business, with liquids production rising almost 4% while natural-gas production fell 1.3%. Domestic earnings soared by almost two-thirds, far outpacing Exxon's international earnings growth in the upstream segment.
Meanwhile, downstream earnings, which include Exxon's refining and marketing operations, plunged 81% to $592 million as weaker refining margins were responsible for the bulk of the decline. On the other hand, Exxon's chemical segment benefited from better margins, but its 30% jump in earnings provided only a relatively small boost to overall net income.
Exxon CEO Rex Tillerson put the results in a positive light, saying that they "reflect our continued progress across a diverse set of profitable growth opportunities." Even with the earnings declines, Exxon spent $10.5 billion on capital and exploration expenditures during the third quarter, and returned $5.8 billion to shareholders through a combination of share buybacks and dividend payments.
As of 8:30 a.m. EDT, Exxon shares were up about three-quarters of a percent in pre-market trading.
ExxonMobil will have a conference call at 11 a.m. EDT to discuss the results in further detail. For more information, visit the ExxonMobil investor relations site.
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