It’s nice to see that some company posted record breaking profits for 2008.
But that was then…and now is now. Looking at THEN:
Exxon Mobil Corp. on Friday reported a profit of $45.2 billion for 2008, breaking its own record for a U.S. company, even as its fourth-quarter earnings fell 33 percent from a year ago.
The previous record for annual profit was $40.6 billion, which the world’s largest publicly traded oil company set in 2007.
The extraordinary full-year profit wasn’t a surprise given crude’s triple-digit price for much of 2008, peaking near an unheard of $150 a barrel in July. Since then, however, prices have fallen roughly 70 percent amid a deepening global economic crisis.
In the fourth quarter alone crude tumbled 60 percent, prompting spending and job cuts in an industry that was reporting robust, often record, profits as recently as last summer.
With piles of cash and diversified operations, the majors like Exxon Mobil have fared better than many smaller oil and gas companies, but Friday’s results show no one is completely insulated from the ongoing malaise.
The reason: income for Exxon slid to $7.8 billion, or $1.55 a share during Oct-Dec. But it is on the rise again. Looking at NOW:
Exxon Mobil, the world’s largest publicly traded oil company, said Friday that its fourth-quarter income fell 33 percent as oil prices declined.
But in a year where oil rose to a record before having its steepest-ever collapse, Exxon still managed to set a record as the most-profitable American corporation. The company earned $45.2 billion in 2008, up from $40.6 billion in 2007.
After riding a tide of swelling earnings in recent years, the once highflying oil sector is beginning to scramble to adjust to a sharp downturn.
Oil prices have dropped more than 70 percent since peaking above $145 a barrel in July. After averaging $100 a barrel in 2008, oil prices are set to decline for the first time this year since 2001.
This Times report says that Exxon took steps to weather the financial storm better than some of its competion.
Some other stories paint more of the picture:
—Chevron Fourth-Quarter Profit Rises, Tops Estimates
—Shell Reports First Loss in a Decade on Oil Plunge
—ConocoPhillips reports $31.8B loss on charges
—Oil Falls on U.S. Supply Gain, Signs That Recession to Deepen
Joe Gandelman is a former fulltime journalist who freelanced in India, Spain, Bangladesh and Cypress writing for publications such as the Christian Science Monitor and Newsweek. He also did radio reports from Madrid for NPR’s All Things Considered. He has worked on two U.S. newspapers and quit the news biz in 1990 to go into entertainment. He also has written for The Week and several online publications, did a column for Cagle Cartoons Syndicate and has appeared on CNN.