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Noble Energy's 3Q net income falls on higher costs

HOUSTON -- Noble Energy, while wresting with falling natural gas prices and a hurricane in the Gulf of Mexico, topped Wall Street expectations for the third quarter.

The company ramped up oil sales and said it expects to initiate sales from its Tamar gas discovery in the Mediterranean near Israel.

The Houston energy producer said Thursday that its net income totaled $221 million, or $1.23 per share, in the July-through-September quarter. That compared with net income of $441 million, or $2.39 per share, a year ago when the company recorded a $300 million gain on derivatives.

The most recent results reflected a $131 million loss on derivatives among other special items. Excluding those, Noble's adjusted earnings totaled $167 million, or 93 cents a share.

Revenue rose to $1.01 billion from $879 million.

Analysts, on average, predicted earnings of $1.07 per share on revenue of $1.06 billion, according to FactSet. Such estimates typically exclude one-time items.

Noble said its sales volume rose 11 percent to 242,000 barrels of oil equivalent per day. Its average sales price for oil was $99.30 per barrel, up 2.6 percent from a year ago. The price for natural gas was to $2.14 per 1,000 cubic feet compared with $3.18 per 1,000 cubic feet.

"Despite the impact of Hurricane Isaac in the Gulf of Mexico and unscheduled third party downtime in the (Denver-Julesburg Basin), volumes grew by eight percent over last quarter and 11 percent year over year," said Chairman and CEO Charles Davidson.

Production averaged 247 million barrels of oil per day, which factored in disruptions from Hurricane Isaac hit, but total operating expenses of $556 million compared with $504 million a year ago.

Noble has forecast fourth-quarter volumes to average between 248 million and 252 million barrels of oil equivalent per day.

Shares of Noble Energy Inc. rose $1.28 to $91.46 in morning trading. The price has ranged from $76.83 to $105.46 per share in the past 52 weeks.

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