Jan. 25 (Bloomberg) -- ConocoPhillips, the U.S. oil company that plans to spin off its refining business this year, said fourth-quarter profit rose as higher oil prices and asset sales made up for lower production.
Net income climbed to $3.39 billion, or $2.56 a share, from $2.04 billion, or $1.39, a year earlier, Houston-based ConocoPhillips said in a Business Wire statement today.
ConocoPhillips plans to spin off its refining business in the second quarter so it can focus on finding and producing oil and natural gas. The company is in the midst of a three-year plan to sell $15 billion to $20 billion of assets by the end of 2012 to fund share repurchases and position itself for future growth.
Once the spinoff is completed, the “company will be increasingly reliant on oil prices to drive the share price,” said Brian Youngberg, an analyst at Edward Jones in St. Louis who has a “buy” rating on ConocoPhillips shares and owns none.
Brent crude futures, a benchmark oil price used by much of the world, climbed 25 percent from a year earlier to average $109.02 a barrel in the fourth quarter. Natural-gas futures traded in New York averaged $3.48 per million British thermal units in the quarter, a decline of 13 percent from a year earlier. Gas this month traded at the lowest price since 2002.
In addition to asset sales, ConocoPhillips in 2011 completed the sale of its 20 percent stake in OAO Lukoil, a Russian oil producer.
Unrest in Libya caused ConocoPhillips to suspend production from that country last year. The company’s net oil output from Libya averaged about 46,000 barrels a day in 2010, according to a regulatory filing.
The earnings statement was issued before the opening of regular trading on U.S. markets. ConocoPhillips rose 0.07 percent to $70.61 at the close in New York yesterday. The stock has declined 3.1 percent this year.
ConocoPhillips leads major U.S. oil companies in reporting fourth-quarter earnings. Chevron Corp., the second-biggest U.S. oil company, is scheduled to release results on Jan. 27, followed by Exxon Mobil Corp., the largest U.S. oil company, on Jan. 31.
(ConocoPhillips is scheduled to begin an earnings conference call for investors and analysts at 11 a.m. New York time. To listen, access the broadcast at www.conocophillips.com.)
--Editors: Susan Warren, Charles Siler
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