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Last Updated: Monday, 30 January 2006, 14:40 GMT
Exxon profits surge to new record
Oil rig
Surging profits topped off a record year for Exxon
Surging oil and gas prices have helped Exxon Mobil to unveil the highest quarterly profits reported by a publicly-traded US company.

Fourth-quarter earnings jumped to $10.7bn (6bn) from $8.4bn in the same period last year.

The results drove Exxon's annual profit to $36.13bn - 42% up on last year.

In the past year, oil prices have soared on concerns about supplies prompted by tensions in oil producing countries and hurricanes in the US.

Meanwhile, Exxon also got a boost from a one-off $390m payment to settle a lawsuit in the last three months of the financial year.

Without the exceptional item, earnings for the quarter came in at $1.65 per share, still significantly better than analyst forecasts of $1.45.

Production squeeze

Despite the good news, Exxon did reveal that oil and gas production fell by 1% during the quarter.

But, Exxon suggested the problems may have been down to the effect of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

Once the effect of the storms was stripped out, along with other one-off factors, production actually rose 2%, the group said.

Meanwhile, reports suggested there could be trouble ahead for the group.

Commentators suggested falling production could be evidence that Exxon is having trouble accessing supplies in the Middle East as well as battling to raise output at maturing oil fields.

Analysts also warned that the sky-high profits could also trigger calls from consumer groups and politicians for special taxes to be slapped on oil firms as they have been the main beneficiaries of recent record petrol prices.

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