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Thursday, 30 January, 2003, 18:24 GMT
Oil prices lift ExxonMobil
A Mobil pertol station
Oil prices have gained 40% in 2002
Surging oil and gas prices have boosted profits at ExxonMobil, the world's biggest oil company.

Profits in the fourth quarter soared 50% to $4.09bn (2.5bn), beating analyst expectations.

Fears of a potential war in Iraq and a labour strike in Venezuela, which crippled its oil exports, have pushed oil prices up by 40% over the year.

Exxon's exploration and production division was lifted by the oil rally, but it took a toll on the refining and marketing and chemicals businesses, where crude oil is used as a key raw material.

Shares rise

Sales jumped 18% in the fourth quarter to $56.2bn, even though revenues for the year 2002 dipped 4% to $204.5bn.

Although full year profits fell by a third to $11.5bn, Exxon-chairman Lee Raymond said profits in the last period were the highest since the second quarter of 2001.

Tyler Dann, an analyst at Banc of America Securities said: "It was pretty clearly a strong quarter, though I don't think it is indicative of a company firing on all cylinders."

But investors seemed pleased with the news.

On the New York Stock Exchange, shares in the world's largest publicly traded oil company gained 1% to $34.20 on the news.

Shares had already risen 10% in the fourth quarter.

ConocoPhilips

Exxon's news followed good results from ConocoPhillips, America's third-largest integrated oil company, which also posted better-than-expected earnings due to strong oil prices.

America's second-largest publicly traded oil company, ChevronTexaco, will report on Friday.

ExxonMobil's brands include the petrol station chain, Esso, the convenience store group, On the Run, and Mobil oil products.

See also:

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