|War propels Exxon profits to
record $7bn |
Friday May 2, 2003
ExxonMobil, the world's biggest privately owned oil group and a target of street protesters, celebrated May Day by reporting the largest quarterly corporate profits in history at $7.04bn (£4.4bn).
The company, whose petrol stations around Europe are subject to boycotts by StopEsso campaigners angry about its stance on global warming, made £2.2m an hour - double that of rival BP.
Crucial to the surge in profits was the rising global price of oil, which averaged record highs across the three-month period, buoyed by fears of a supply gap due to the war in Iraq.
The net income figure of $7.05bn included special items and compared with last year's figure of $2.09bn. The company has rewarded shareholders with an 8% rise in dividend.
Fadel Gheit, oil analyst with New York brokerage Fahnstock & Co, said groundbreaking profits had been driven by the Iraq war and strikes in Venezuela and Nigeria. "They [Exxon] had a very strong wind in their sail and they happened to have a very big sail. But if you look at the detail, the US refining and marketing figures fell from the fourth quarter and the US chemicals results were also very disappointing," he said.
The StopEsso campaign denied that the huge Exxon profits suggested its boycott was not working. "All you are seeing is the oil industry getting its first benefits from the war in Iraq. Our action has now spread to nine countries and in terms of brand damage we are winning," said a spokeswoman for the campaign.
Exxon has been pilloried by environmentalists for taking a sceptical stance on global warming and has been blamed by them for encouraging US president George Bush not to sign the Kyoto treaty.
Analysts believe the record first-quarter figures from the top oil companies, including Shell today, will not be repeated because oil prices have already started to fall as the conflict in Iraq comes to an end.
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