Lower Energy Prices Batter ConocoPhillips Q1 Results

HOUSTON -- ConocoPhillips reported yesterday its first quarter profits fell 80 percent from a year ago, due to the sharp decline in oil and natural gas prices this year.

The nation’s third largest oil company’s net income for the January to March period was $840 million, compared with earnings of $4.14 billion in the year ago period.

Revenue fell 44 percent to $30.7 billion, from $54.9 billion in 2008’s first quarter.

First-quarter results for the entire oil industry are expected to be the worst in years as the global economic downturn saps demand for energy. After peaking around $150 in July, the price of crude tumbled hard and fast, and today costs less than $50 a barrel, according to The Associated Press.

Despite the difficult year-to-year comparisons, ConocoPhillips' first quarter results were actually much better than the fourth quarter 2008, when the company took $34 billion in asset writedowns linked in part to lower commodity prices. In January, Conoco announced 1,300 job cuts and, anticipating a difficult 2009, reduced its capital spending budget by 37 percent this year, according to the AP report.

Net income at Conoco's refining and marketing, or downstream, segment fell 61 percent to $205 million from a year ago because of lower volumes.

The company said the utilization rate at its U.S. refineries was about 80 percent in the first quarter, down from 90 percent a year ago. Many refiners have slowed production in recent months because consumers are driving less due to the bad economy.

ConocoPhillips is the third-largest U.S. oil company in revenue, after ExxonMobil and Chevron. The company recently climbed a notch to fourth place on the Fortune 500 list of highest-revenue companies, with sales of $230.76 billion in 2008.

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