Chevron, Total profits climb as oil gains

By Matt Daily and Tom Bergin

NEW YORK/LONDON (BestGrowthStock) – Chevron Corp (CVX.N: ) and Total SA (TOTF.PA: ) posted sharp gains in quarterly profit on Friday, the latest in a line of oil giants to see their coffers swell on the strength in oil prices.

Oil prices in the first quarter nearly doubled from the year-earlier quarter, driving up profits for Exxon Mobil (XOM.N: ), BP Plc (BP.L: ), Royal Dutch Shell Plc (RDSa.L: ) and ConocoPhillips (COP.N: ), which all issued earnings reports this week.

The oil industry is coming under scrutiny as the massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico reached the wildlife refuges on the Louisiana coast on Friday.

Chevron’s profit more than doubled from a year earlier, while Total’s net profit rose 23 percent.

The oil price strength and increased output of oil and gas overshadowed weaker profit margins from refineries at Chevron, while Total, which also saw strong production growth, saw its refining profit hurt by strikes related to a plant closure.

Still, nearly all the energy giants capitalized on the higher oil prices, with Exxon, Chevron and Total each recording oil and gas production increases of 4.5 percent versus a year ago. Shell led the pack with a 6 percent gain, while BP’s production was flat from a year earlier.

Total produced 2.43 million barrels of oil equivalent per day during the quarter, while Chevron reached 2.78 million boe/d, pushing it above analysts’ earnings estimates for the year.

“(Chevron’s) production is somewhat above where we expected it,” said Mark Gilman, analyst with The Benchmark Company.

REFINERY WOES

While the production businesses of Chevron and Total enjoyed a strong quarter, refining and marketing suffered as the slack global economy kept demand weak for products such as diesel, gasoline and fuel oil.

Chevron, which has said it planned to restructure its downstream business, said profit there fell 74 percent to $196 million,

Total, Europe’s biggest refiner said operating income at its refining division fell 74 percent, due to lower refining margins and outages due to a series of strikes, related to the closure of a plant.

Total said adjusted net income, which excludes unrealized gains related to increases in the value of inventories, rose 9 percent compared with the same period in 2009 to 2.3 billion euros ($3.06 billion), in line with analysts’ forecasts.

Chevron’s first-quarter net profit at the second-largest U.S. oil company more than doubled to $4.55 billion, or $2.27 per share. Excluding charges, earnings of $2.36 per share easily topped the $1.94 that analysts on average had forecast.

Chevron’s shares were up 0.4 percent to $82.61 per share in New York, while Total’s shares fell 2.6 percent to 40.97 euros.

Stock Market Research

(Reporting by Matt Daily and Tom Bergin; Editing by Phil Berlowitz)

Chevron, Total profits climb as oil gains