- Reaction score
Exxon Mobil, the world's largest publicly quoted oil and gas firm, yesterday said it made $25bn (Â£13bn) in 2004, the highest profits in the company's history.
The earnings are roughly equal to the gross domestic product of Luxembourg or Guatemala, and higher than the individual GDPs of Syria, Bulgaria and Kenya.
The record profits were achieved on the back of the surge in oil and gas prices last year due to high demand and instability in some of the biggest producing nations.
The company, based in Irving, Texas, said revenues in the year rose to $298bn, up from $248bn in 2003. The earnings figure compared with $21.5bn in the previous year. Credit Suisse First Boston described the figures "as a particularly impressive set of results".
Crude prices reached $55 a barrel in October.
Demand from the fast-growing economies of India and China have put pressure on prices. Global oil use grew by 3.3% during 2004 - the biggest increase since 1976, according to the International Energy Agency.
At the same time there were fears of disruption to supplies from countries including Russia, Iraq and Nigeria.
In the fourth quarter, Exxon made $8.4bn, up from $6.6bn in the same period a year earlier. Excluding a tax gain in 2003, the comparable figure would have been $4.4bn, underlining the dramatic increase in profits.
All three chief business lines at the company posted higher earnings during the fourth quarter. The exploration and production unit made $4.9bn, up from $3.3bn because of the rise in prices.
Profit from refining and marketing operations tripled to $2.3bn. Its chemicals business also showed a strong improvement, reporting income of $1.2bn, up from $476m. The profits were made despite a 1% decline in oil production as the company sold some of its older oil fields in the United States and a 2% drop in gas production during the period.
Exxon shares were trading 42 cents higher in early trade on Wall Street at $51.69; they have risen steadily from the $40 level during the past 12 months.
Chairman and chief executive Lee Raymond said the company "continued its active investment programme" during the quarter, spending $4.2bn on capital and exploration projects. That figure was down slightly on the $4.4bn spent a year earlier.
He said a "strong operational performance" across the business had enabled Exxon to "capture the benefits of favourable market conditions".