The grossly overused good news-bad news duo is unavoidably appropriate in describing the latest figures for ConocoPhillips
First, the big picture: The company's net income increased nearly 37% in the quarter, to $4.37 billion, from $3.2 billion a year earlier. Those numbers made for per-share figures of $2.71 in the most recent quarter, compared with $1.91 last year. Excluding the ever-present, one-time items and a tax gain, the per-share line came in at $2.48, a nickel plus a few pennies above the dart-throwers' expectations.
Included in the good news for the quarter was the upstream contribution -- exploration and production -- which improved about 25% on higher commodity prices, along with contributions from a tax benefit and an escrowed funds release. And downstream in refining and marketing, the company chalked up about a 22% improvement on the basis of higher refining margins.
Also decidedly in the positive column was a 110% jump in Conoco's income from its stake in Russia's OAO Lukoil (OTC BB: LUKOY). Indeed, that investment is now paying off like a lucky slot machine, generating a 68% hike in its income contribution just from the September quarter.
The somewhat less good news was that the company's oil equivalent production averaged about 1.84 million barrels per day, down 10% from a year ago. The advertised causes were President Chavez's expropriation shenanigans in Venezuela, a departure from Dubai, planned maintenance, and downtime in Nigeria resulting from internecine tribal squabbling there. Management -- somewhat ominously -- is looking for average production of about 1.8 million barrels a day in the current quarter.
That last number is important, as will be the production averages from other companies such as Exxon Mobil
Energy investing in 2008 will require a dexterity that wasn't necessary last year. Nevertheless, the good news column at Conoco has sufficiently eclipsed the less-good news entries. On that basis, the company appears deserving of continued Foolish attention.
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