Economy

Chevron profit falls on refining weakness

NEW YORK (AP) — Chevron said Friday that net income fell 6 percent in the third quarter as weak refining results and higher operating costs offset higher oil and gas production and prices.

The nation's second-biggest oil company posted net income of $4.95 billion for the quarter on revenue of $56.6 billion. The company earned $5.25 billion on revenue of $55.66 billion in the same quarter last year.

The latest earnings amounted to $2.57 per share. Analysts had expected earnings of $2.69 per share, on average, according to FactSet. Chevron Corp. shares fell 5 cents to $125.45 in afternoon trading. Its shares are up almost 11 percent for the year to date.

Chevron's worldwide oil and gas production rose 3 percent, or about 70,000 barrels per day, compared with last year. Higher oil prices in the U.S. and abroad, and higher natural gas prices in the U.S. also helped boost revenue.

But higher operating expenses and exploration costs offset those gains. The company's oil and gas exploration and production earnings fell 1 percent in the quarter. Pat Yarrington, Chevron's chief financial officer, said in a conference call that exploration costs are rising for all oil and gas companies. "We're seeing higher industry costs," she said. "That's a general trend."

Pavel Molchanov, an analyst at Raymond James, called the results "not ideal" but said there were "no major disappointments." Weak refining results further eroded profits. Refining profit fell by 45 percent in the quarter because input costs such as crude oil stayed high while prices for fuel products such as gasoline fell.

Chevron is in the midst of an enormous capital spending plan as it builds liquefied natural gas export facilities in Australia and new deep water production platforms in the Gulf of Mexico. The company expects to spend a record $36.7 billion this year on these and other projects.

Yarrington told investors Friday to expect Chevron to sell some of its smaller or less promising oil and gas exploration and production assets to help raise cash. Capital spending nearly used up all of the company's cash flow in the quarter, and the company spent $1.25 billion in the quarter to buy back shares.

Jonathan Fahey can be reached at http://twitter.com/JonathanFahey.

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