US oil giant Chevron has said its profits more than doubled in the past quarter, beating Wall Street forecasts, thanks to a big lift from oil prices and despite falls in its output.
Growing production remains a nagging problem for all the big oil companies, as shown by the numbers that have accompanied sharp increases in profits for Exxon Mobil and Royal Dutch Shell.
Assuming oil prices at about $100 a barrel, most well-run oil companies offered attractive long-run value, according to analyst Kurt Wulff at McDep Associates.
"But investors would like to see a little growth, and that's hard to come by with the very big companies," he said.
Chevron's profit rose to $7.8bn (£4.9bn), or $3.92 per share, from $3.8bn, or $1.87 per share, a year earlier, above the average analyst estimate of $3.48 a share.
The company had said earlier in October it would report a profit similar to the $7.7bn it earned in the second quarter.
Third-quarter sales rose 26 per cent to $61.26bn, while its oil and gas output fell to 2.6m barrels of oil equivalent per day (bpd) from 2.74m a year-ago.
Chevron sees last quarter as a low point and expects a rise of 100,000 to 150,000 bpd in the fourth quarter, driven by production in Thailand and the Gulf of Mexico from projects that are either new, upgraded or repaired.
But asked by an analyst whether this expectation implied a full-year production number "light" of Chevron's 2.73m bpd guidance, chief financial officer Pat Yarrington said that was a fair assessment.
Chevron had already trimmed its 2011 production guidance by 30,000 bpd in July due to a slower Gulf of Mexico project ramp-up and a Thai pipeline problem. It is sticking with long-term growth targets of 1 percent through 2014, and four to five per cent in the three years after that.
The profit growth is driven by oil prices. Benchmark Brent crude averaged $112 per barrel in the quarter, down from $117 in the second quarter but up from $77 last year.
City A.M. Reporter