Exxon, Shell profits plunge

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Oil giants Exxon Mobil and Royal Dutch Shell on Thursday added to the industry's worst midyear showing in years, stung by slumping global energy demand that threatens to further slow exploration and production.

Exxon Mobil has said it expects to spend $29 billion on capital and exploration projects this year. In its earnings release Thursday, the oil giant said the tab for the first half of 2009 amounted to $12.3 billion, "in line with our longer term plan."  AP / File
AP / File
Exxon Mobil has said it expects to spend $29 billion on capital and exploration projects this year. In its earnings release Thursday, the oil giant said the tab for the first half of 2009 amounted to $12.3 billion, "in line with our longer term plan."

For Exxon, the world's biggest publicly traded oil company, a 66 percent profit plunge for the second quarter marked its lowest result in nearly six years. The Irving, Texas-based company vowed to maintain its aggressive spending plans but acknowledged the tough economic environment has made that difficult.

Its quarterly production fell too -- bad news considering it generates more than two-thirds of its earnings from oil and gas output.

"The results were very disappointing," said Brian Youngberg, an energy analyst at Edward Jones. He noted Exxon has an extensive list of projects in various stages, "but now they need to start delivering."

Production fell 6 percent for Shell, Europe's biggest oil company, and executives said more drastic steps will be taken to adjust to the downturn. CEO Peter Voser promised Thursday to cut jobs and reduce capital spending next year. He said Shell would still increase production by 2 percent to 3 percent a year through 2012, reversing 7 years of declines.

"We simply don't know when the global economy will recover, and we have to plan on the basis that this downturn could last quite some time," Mr. Voser said.

Exxon Mobil said earnings for the April-June period came to $3.95 billion, or 81 cents a share, down from $11.68 billion, or $2.22 a share, a year ago, a record at the time. Excluding one-time items, net income in the most-recent quarter amounted to $4.09 billion, or 84 cents a share. Revenue fell 46 percent to $74.5 billion.

Shell said its profit slid 67 percent to $3.82 billion.

Mr. Voser, CEO only since July 1, said a major move to streamline Shell's operations is on schedule. He said Thursday that 150 "top managers" had been released.

Shell said it would cut its capital expenditures in 2010 to $28 billion, from an expected $31 billion in the current year.

OIL PRICES CLIMB

NEW YORK --- Oil prices surged above $66 a barrel Thursday, rising in lockstep with major global indexes.

Benchmark crude for September delivery rose $3.59, or 5.6 percent, to settle at $66.94 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Oil, gas futures, heating oil and natural gas contracts all jumped at least 5 percent in afternoon trading.

Retail gas prices have been building for more than a week as refiners cut back on production. The national average added less than a penny overnight to $2.516 a gallon, according to auto club AAA, Wright Express and Oil Price Information Service.


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