Chevron 4Q profit falls 3 percent on refining

NEW YORK (AP) — Chevron Corp. said Friday that net income slipped 3.2 percent in the fourth quarter as its refineries struggled to pass on the higher cost of crude oil.

The San Ramon, California, oil giant reported net income of $5.12 billion, or $2.58 per share, in the final three months of 2011. That compared with $5.3 billion, or $2.64 per share, in the same part of 2010. Revenue increased 11.9 percent to $60 billion.

The net income fell short of Wall Street forecasts of $2.86 per share, according to FactSet.

Shares dropped $2.04, or 1.9 percent, to $104.55 in premarket trading.

Chevron, the second-largest U.S. oil company behind Exxon Mobil Corp., said that oil and natural gas production declined in the quarter. Profits from its exploration and production business increased anyway, as the company sold oil at higher prices. International natural gas prices also rose in the quarter.

The refining business struggled, however, as falling prices for retail gasoline and other fuels made it harder to pass along higher oil costs to customers. Chevron’s U.S. refining operations lost $204 million from October to December, compared with a profit a year-earlier, while international refining profits fell by 46.4 percent.

For the full year, Chevron earned $26.9 billion, or $13.44 per share, compared with $19 billion, or $9.48 per share in 2010. Annual revenue increased 23.3 percent to $253.7 billion.

Exxon will release its fourth-quarter financial results on Tuesday.

Earlier in the week, ConocoPhillips reported a 66 percent increase in quarterly earnings, though much of that came from the sale of a pipeline and other assets. Occidental Petroleum Corp. reported a 35 percent jump in quarterly profits as it increased production and sold crude oil for higher prices.

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