ConocoPhillips Sees First Loss Since 2008 on Oil Crash

ConocoPhillips, the third-largest U.S. energy producer, reported its first quarterly loss since 2008 as new output failed to make up for the worst oil-price crash in five years.

The fourth quarter loss of $39 million, or 3 cents a share, compares with profits of $2.49 billion, or $1.20, a year earlier, Houston-based ConocoPhillips said Thursday in a statement. Excluding one-time items such as the cost to exit a gas export project, per-share profit of 60 cents was 2 cents more than the 58-cent average of 21 analysts’ estimates compiled by Bloomberg. Sales fell 15 percent to $11.2 billion.

ConocoPhillips is the second of the world’s largest oil companies to report earnings for the fourth quarter, a period in which crude prices fell 42 percent. Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Ryan Lance was among the first in the industry to announce spending cuts. The company will reduce expenditures by more than 30 percent to $11.5 billion this year on drilling projects from Colorado to Indonesia.

“A lot of those cuts could be coming back to shale, an area that has really allowed them to improve their profitability in recent years,” James Sullivan, an analyst with Alembic Global Advisors in New York, said in an interview before the results were released. “We hope those high margin growth areas will remain a solid engine for them.”

Earlier Thursday, Royal Dutch Shell Plc said it will cut $15 billion of investment over the next three years as the crash in oil prices saw fourth-quarter profit miss forecasts.

A one-time energy conglomerate, ConocoPhillips has expanded in North America after spinning off its refining business and selling $10 billion in assets. The company can turn a profit drilling in formations such as Texas’s Eagle Ford with an oil price of $40 a barrel, according to an investor presentation last month.

Output excluding Libya rose more than 6 percent to the equivalent of about 1.6 million barrels of oil and natural gas a day. ConocoPhillips said production should rise this year by 2 to 3 percent.

Brent crude, the benchmark used by most of the world, has averaged $49.57 a barrel this month.

ConocoPhillips, which has 19 buy, eight hold and one sell recommendation from analysts, closed at $62.58 in New York trading Wednesday.

(ConocoPhillips scheduled a conference call for 12:00 p.m. New York time that can be accessed at www.conocophillips.com/investor/earnings.)

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