This just in: Oil prices are up!
Seriously, it's been impossible to listen to financial TV for the last two years and not hear something about the high price of oil and natural gas. Not surprisingly, oil giant ExxonMobil
Higher oil prices have led many companies to similar gains. Refiners such as Valero Energy
Note to investors: ExxonMobil is involved in all three of those profitable businesses.
Sales in the upstream business (oil and gas production) more than tripled to $4.9 billion, while downstream operations (mostly refining) produced revenue growth of "only" 44% and sales of $2.3 billion. The chemicals business was a bit more respectable, coming in at $1.2 billion -- about 50% above last year's level.
Despite the high price of energy, ExxonMobil was able to produce only about 1% more energy on a "same well" basis. Remember, oil and gas wells aren't like kitchen faucets. It costs a lot of money to sink a new well and to toggle production between on and off. Consequently, most producers pump as much as they can and hope for the best with pricing.
While the company continues to aggressively search out new oil and gas fields (such as the new oil-rich discoveries off the coast of Africa), it likely won't be able to dramatically grow production volumes anytime soon. As a result, the price of oil and gas (and to a lesser extent, the price of refined goods such as gasoline and motor oil) will be the major determinant of ExxonMobil's growth.
Are higher oil prices here to stay? Beats me. What I do know, though, is that this company has a 22-year history of raising dividends no matter what the price of oil has been. Similarly, the company has managed to grow its book value by more than 70% over the past 10 years. Whether the future holds more expensive oil or cheaper oil, investors can probably count on ExxonMobil to be there making the most of it.
Fool contributor Stephen Simpson, a chartered financial analyst, has no ownership interest in any stocks mentioned.