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Exxon Mobil Corp on Friday smashed expectations as soaring energy prices fueled a record-breaking quarterly profit, nearly matching that of tech giant Apple.
Its $19.66 billion third-quarter net profit far exceeded recently raised Wall Street forecasts as skyrocketing natural gas and high oil prices put its earnings within reach of Apple’s $20.7 billion net for the same period.
As recently as 2013, Exxon ranked as the largest publicly traded US company by market value – a position now held by Apple. Exxon shares rose 3% to $110.70, a record high that gave it a market value of $461 billion.
Oil company profits have soared this year as rising demand and an undersupplied energy market collided with Western sanctions against Russia over its invasion of Ukraine. US exports of gas and oil to Europe have jumped and promise to set all-time profit records for the industry.
The top US oil producer reported a per-share profit of $4.68, exceeding Wall Street’s $3.89 consensus view, on a huge jump in natural gas earnings, continued high oil prices and strong fuel sales.
“Where others pulled back in the face of uncertainty and a historic slowdown, retreating and retrenching, this company moved forward, continuing to invest,” Chief Executive Darren Woods told investors. Its quarterly profits “reflect that deep commitment” as well as higher prices, he added.
Exxon led record gains among oil majors in the second quarter and has leapfrogged Shell Plc and TotalEnergies SE with earnings almost twice as big from continued bets on fossil fuels as competitors shifted investment to renewables.
Exxon banked $43 billion in the first nine months of this year, 19% more than in the same period of 2008, when oil prices traded at a record level of $140 per barrel.
Earnings from pumping oil and gas tripled last quarter while profit from selling motor fuels jumped tenfold compared with year-ago levels. Natural gas sales to Europe and soaring demand for diesel fuel led the company’s better-than-expected results.
“The refining businesses – both in the US and international – was the star performer,” said Peter McNally, an analyst at Third Bridge.
Those rising fuel profits have renewed calls by US President Joe Biden for companies to invest the windfall from this year’s energy price run-up in production rather than buy back their own shares. Exxon will maintain its $30 billion share buyback through 2023 while increasing dividends, Chief Financial Officer Kathryn Mikells told Reuters. On Friday, it declared a fourth-quarter per-share dividend of 91 cents, up 3 cents, and will pay $15 billion to shareholders this year.
Exxon said its US oil and gas production from the Permian Basin was near 560,000 barrels of oil and gas per day (boepd), a record. Production for the year will increase about 20% over 2021, said CEO Woods.
“We’re optimizing and adjusting our development plans,” he told analysts, with the full-year production gain below the 25% increase Exxon had forecast in February.
Results also were helped by an almost 100,000-boepd increase over the previous quarter in Guyana, where Exxon leads a consortium responsible for all output in the South American nation.
But its withdrawal from Russia reduced its overall production forecast for the year by about 100,000 barrels per day. Exxon said its Russian assets were expropriated.
Global oil-and-gas giants including Exxon Mobil, Chevron and Equinor posted huge profits in the third quarter, benefiting from surging energy costs that have boosted inflation around the world and hit consumers hard. Oil companies booked billions of dollars in profits as prices for crude, natural gas and fuels like gasoline hovered near record levels during the quarter. Global supplies remain tight due to output cuts stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic, and market disruption following Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.
The soaring profits are feeding criticism from consumer groups in the United States and Europe as inflation climbs. U.S. President Joe Biden has told oil companies they are not doing more to bring down energy costs, while in Britain and the European Union, there are calls for further windfall taxes on energy companies.
Chevron earned $11.2 billion, nearly doubling the $6.1 billion from the same period last year. U.S. oil executives have been loath to crow about this year’s earnings gains, preferring to emphasize investment commitments.
U.S. lawmakers have criticized the big oil companies for not doing more to raise production more swiftly to offset rising costs for consumers for heating homes and filling the gas tank. Chevron’s global production of 3.1 million barrels of oil equivalent per day (boed) for all of 2022 so far is actually down by about 100,000 boed from the same time a year ago.