ConocoPhillips 1st-Quarter Profit Boosted By Asset Sales

Wednesday, April 25th 2007, 9:33 am

By: News On 6

NEW YORK (AP) _ ConocoPhillips, the nation's third-largest oil and gas producer, said Wednesday its first-quarter profit rose 7.7 percent as income from asset sales helped offset lower commodity prices and higher operating costs.

Net income for the Houston-based company rose to $3.55 billion, or $2.12 a share, for the January-March period from $3.29 billion, or $2.34 a share, in the year-ago quarter.

ConocoPhillips said its profit included a one-time net benefit of 29 cents a share from the sale of assets.

Revenue fell to $41.3 billion from $46.9 billion a year ago.

Wall Street analysts polled by Thomson Financial were expecting earnings of $1.86 a share on revenue of $55 billion. The earnings results fell 3 cents short of the analysts' forecast because it typically does not include one-time gains or expenses.

Its shares fell 21 cents to $69.43 in morning trading on the New York Stock Exchange. They have traded in a 52-week range of $54.90 to $74.89.

``We achieved another quarter of strong financial results, and we continue to build shareholder value through operating excellence and project execution, capital discipline, debt reduction and increased share repurchases and dividends,'' ConocoPhillips Chairman and Chief Executive Jim Mulva said in a statement.

Lower year-over-year oil prices hurt results at the company's exploration and production arm, where income fell to $2.33 billion from $2.55 billion to start 2006. In addition to lower commodity prices _ the market price of oil was off more than $5 a barrel in the first quarter versus a year ago _ the company cited higher operating costs and taxes as hindrances. The market price for natural gas also was down from a year ago.

Daily production for the quarter averaged 2.02 million barrels of oil equivalent per day, a big rise from the 1.61 million barrels a day in the first quarter of 2006. The company said the jump was due in part to the addition of assets from its $35.6 billion purchase of Burlington Resources Inc., completed last spring. Production results include ConocoPhillips' Canadian Syncrude operations but not its Russian Lukoil business.

The gains were partially offset by decreased production from the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, normal field decline and asset sales.

Earnings were better at ConocoPhillips' refining and marketing arm, which saw net income rise to $1.14 billion from $390 million a year ago.

The company said it reduced debt in the quarter by $3.5 billion to $23.7 billion.

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