Exxon Mobil signals first profit in five quarters on price gains

·2 min read
FILE PHOTO: An Exxon sign is seen at a gas station in the Chicago suburb of Norridge

HOUSTON (Reuters) -Exxon Mobil Corp could post its first profit in five quarters on improved results across its businesses, with higher oil and gas prices providing a lift of as much as $2.7 billion, offset by costs from a February deep freeze.

The largest U.S. oil producer last year posted consecutive quarterly losses as falling oil prices and refining margins triggered write downs. It slashed operating expenses last year and analysts had forecast a per share profit of 54 cents, according to IBES data from Refinitiv.

Exxon could top Wall Street estimates based on its Wednesday securities filing, according to brokerage Raymond James & Associates. The data point to a quarterly profit of about $2.55 billion, or 60 cents share, wrote analyst Justin Jenkins in a note.

Shares gained 12 cents to $55.95 in late trading. The stock has gained more than a third this year to date.

The February freeze that cut power to Texas refineries and chemical plants, and curbed oil and gas supplies, caused up to $800 million in damages and lost production volumes, Exxon indicated. ConocoPhillips and Devon Energy earlier warned of production losses from the cold snap.

The filing showed refining remains a troubled business despite sequentially improved operating margins. Refineries have been especially hard hit by a pandemic-related drop in fuel demand and a recent rise in feedstock prices.

That business overall could post a loss of $400 million for the period including costs from the freeze, estimated Jenkins.

Exxon's chemicals operation, its only business to eke out a profit for 2020, could get a $600 million boost over fourth quarter results on better margins. The business earned $700 million in the final quarter.

Results are scheduled to be released on April 30.

Reported first-quarter earnings could hit $2.34 billion, according to Refinitiv IBES, compared with a year-earlier loss of $610 million.

(Reporting by Jennifer Hiller and Shariq Khan; Editing by Anil D'Silva, Diane Craft and Lincoln Feast.)