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Thursday, 25 October, 2001, 16:58 GMT 17:58 UK
Profits fade for oil companies
Profits have fallen 24% at Chevron, which earlier this month formally completed its $39.5bn acquisition of Texaco.

The San Francisco-based oil firm said profits fell to $1.17bn for the three-month period between July and September compared with $1.5bn a year earlier.

Opec seeks help from...
A sharp fall in profits in oil companies around the world will increase pressure on Opec, the oil producers' cartel, to take action.

The decline in profitability of listed oil companies will be magnified many times by the state-owned companies of some of the world's largest oil exporting countries in the Middle East.

The fall is almost entirely due to the recent heavy falls in the price of crude oil.

Free to cut?

Opec has given heavy hints that it is likely to cut oil production soon in order to restore prices to higher levels.

The organisation should not be left to alone shoulder the responsibility of stabilizing the market

Ali Rodriguez, Opec
On Thursday, the cartel's Venezuelan secretary general, Ali Rodriguez, said that the cartel must "act quickly" to support prices.

Many observers now expect a cut when the member countries meet on 14 November.

But the cartel is still very aware that a reduction in output may seem insensitive in the current political situation.

And other analysts say the cartel has effectively had its hands tied since the 11 September terrorist attacks.

Outside help

As well as mulling production cuts, the cartel is also pressing ahead with a newer strategy of enlisting help from non-Opec member countries.

Opec members
Saudi Arabia
United Arab Emirates
"The organisation's member countries should not be left to alone shoulder the responsibility of stabilizing the market," said Mr Rodriguez.

The group has organised a special meeting on 29 October between non-Opec and Opec members to discuss the collapse in the oil price.

Saudi Oil Minister Ali al-Naimi is also expected to visit key non-Opec producers Russia and Mexico in the next few weeks.

Norway's Oil and Energy Ministry has said it will attend the meeting, but has made it clear that a production cut is not an option.

Other countries may prove keener to mirror any decision on output from the cartel.

Price fears

World oil markets were flat on Thursday, as the markets weighed falling demand against the indications of a cut from Opec.

The European benchmark, Brent, changed hands at $21.34 per barrel in afternoon trading.

But crude oil prices have fallen about 20% this month, as the economic slowdown undermines the world's need for fuel.

Prices have fallen 31% since the highs that followed the terrorist attacks on the 11 September.

Opec's 11 Members collectively supply about 40% of the world's oil, and possess more than three-quarters of the world's total proven crude oil reserves.

See also:

23 Oct 01 | Business
Exxon's profits tumble
15 Oct 01 | Business
Qatar highlights Opec dilemma
12 Oct 01 | Business
Oil demand set to slump
04 Oct 01 | Business
Opec faces up to low oil prices
16 Oct 00 | Business
Oil giant Chevron buys rival Texaco
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