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California and West

Occidental's Earnings More Than Double

The company posts profit of $1.75 billion on soaring energy prices and one-time gains. Revenue jumps 35%.

November 01, 2005|Elizabeth Douglass | Times Staff Writer

Oil and natural gas producer Occidental Petroleum Corp. said its third-quarter profit more than doubled to a record $1.75 billion because of lofty energy prices and several one-time gains.

Production at the Westwood-based company was flat for the quarter amid hurricane-related disruptions, but its operating results were nonetheless in line with the expectations of Wall Street analysts.

Occidental, which in October agreed to buy independent oil firm Vintage Petroleum Inc., said its net income was $4.25 a share for the quarter that ended Sept. 30, compared with a profit of $758 million, or $1.88, a year earlier. Sales rose 35% to $4.1 billion, up from $3 billion in the year-earlier third quarter.

Given the extended run of high prices for oil and natural gas, analysts expect a steady stream of record-breaking results like those announced Monday by both Occidental and Valero Energy Corp. Last week, Chevron Corp. and Exxon Mobil Corp., the nation's two largest oil companies, reported soaring third-quarter net income and triggered renewed calls by politicians for a special tax on oil company profits.

Industry analyst Fadel Gheit said Occidental's strong results were "really nothing to write home about, either positive or negative." Gheit is senior oil analyst at Oppenheimer & Co. and doesn't own the oil company's shares.

Still, after Occidental released its third-quarter report, the company's stock rose $1.98, or 3%, on Monday to $78.88 a share.

Occidental's quarterly profit was helped by several one-time items, including a $463-million after-tax gain stemming from its stake in refiner Premcor Inc., which was recently sold to Valero. Occidental also booked a $335-million tax benefit.

Excluding those special items, Occidental posted third-quarter earnings of $2.69 a share, up from $1.92 a year earlier, and slightly higher than the $2.63 a share expected by analysts surveyed by Thomson Financial.

Occidental Chief Financial Officer Stephen Chazen said the company's total production of oil and natural gas fell by about 13,000 barrels a day for the third quarter, to 562,000 barrels of oil and estimated natural gas. Some of the lost production stemmed from Occidental's Horn Mountain project in the Gulf of Mexico, where operations were halted for 37 days because of the recent hurricanes.

New production from Libya, which had been off limits to U.S. oil companies until recently, helped offset the lost production in the gulf and declining output elsewhere. Sales from that country totaled 9,000 barrels a day in the third quarter but probably will jump to 22,000 barrels a day in the current quarter, Occidental said.

"Libya will, by year-end, have a significant impact on production and growth," said Subash Chandra, managing director of energy analysis at Morgan Keegan & Co.

Also Monday, Valero said its third-quarter profit tripled to $1.3 billion, or $4.37 a share, up from $434 million, or $1.57, for the year-earlier third quarter. Chairman and Chief Executive Bill Greehey called the company's outlook "outstanding," despite hurricane damage to several of its refineries in the gulf region.

The nation's largest refiner also said Monday that Greehey would step down as CEO at the end of the year and would be succeeded by Bill Klesse, Valero's executive vice president and chief operating officer. Greehey will remain chairman.

Valero shares rose 6% on Monday to $105.24, up $5.74.

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