Exxon Mobil’s Profit Plunges 40 Percent

Photo at top: Exxon Mobil Gas Station in Arlington Heights. (Urvashi Verma/MEDILL)

By Urvashi Verma

Exxon Mobil Corp.’s profit dropped nearly 40 percent in the fourth quarter as the company reported a $2 billion impairment in its natural gas assets and weaker profits from refining operations.

Nevertheless, the stock decreased a modest 1.14 percent and closed at $83.89.

Profit in the quarter declined to $1.68 billion or 41 cents per diluted share from $2.78 billion or 67 cents a share in the year-earlier quarter, sharply below the estimate of 81 cents per share compiled by Bloomberg.

“Financial results for the year were negatively impacted by the prolonged downturn in commodity prices and the impairment charge,” said Chairman and CEO Darren Woods in the earnings conference call.

The company booked a $2 billion reduction in value of undeveloped natural gas land assets in the Rocky Mountains obtained in the acquisition of XTO Energy in 2009. Under former CEO Rex Tillerson Exxon paid $31 billion for XTO Energy.


Because Exxon’s refining and chemical operations depend in part on purchased crude oil, the rise of crude prices to above $50 per barrel has put pressure on the profit margins of those operations.

“Bullish oil prices do not bode well for Exxon. It has massive refining and chemical operations,” said senior vice president and equities analyst Pavel Molchanov at Raymond James and Associates investment company. “Oil producers with high operating leverage will perform better in this environment,” said Molchanov, referring to companies with comparatively low fixed costs.

For the full year, Exxon Mobil reported a 49 percent decline in net income to $7.840 billion, or $1.88 per diluted share, from $16.1 billion, or $3.85 per diluted share, in 2015. Revenue fell 13.43 percent to $205 billion from $236.81 billion.

In the conference call the company declined to speculate about future operations and profits.

Last week it announced it will pay its regular quarterly dividend of 75 cents per share in March.