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WRAPUP-Occidental, Conoco profits fall, but beat estimates

Anna Driver
Thursday, 25 Oct 2012 | 3:31 PM ET

* Occidental, Conoco shares rise

* Occidental's output up 4 percent

* Conoco has record Eagle Ford output

Oct 25 (Reuters) - ConocoPhillips and Occidental Petroleum Corp reported quarterly results that topped Wall Street estimates as they produced more oil and gas than expected, even as lower prices hurt profits.

Shares of Conoco rose nearly 2 percent, while Occidental dipped 0.7 percent on Thursday.

During the third quarter the companies ramped up drilling in North America, where large oil companies are spending more in a bid to increase production. Conoco had record output in the Eagle Ford basin in south Texas, while Occidental saw strong production of higher-priced crude oil in the Permian Basin.

``(Conoco's) ramp-up in the Eagle Ford is on track or exceeding the market's expectations,'' said Fadel Gheit, an oil analyst at Oppenheimer. ``They delivered on everything they said they would, and more.''

North American shale fields are increasingly seen as a relatively low-cost, reliable source of both oil and natural gas in an era when nations like Russia and Brazil are tightening control of their resources.

Natural gas prices in the United States fell 30 percent in the third quarter, compared with a year earlier, to $2.83 per million British thermal units, burdened by heavy supplies.

The average Brent oil price of $110 per barrel in the quarter was down $2, hit by worries about slowing demand.

Conoco's third-quarter profit fell 31 percent and Occidental's declined 22 percent, hurt by the lower oil and natural gas prices.

Conoco's oil and gas output in the quarter was 1.53 million barrels of oil equivalent per day (BOE), down from 1.54 million a year earlier.

Excluding items related to asset sales and taxes, Conoco, the No. 3 U.S. oil company, had a profit of $1.44 per share. Analysts, on average, expected $1.19.

Occidental, the No. 4 U.S. oil company, said net profit fell to $1.38 billion, or $1.69 per share, from $1.77 billion, or $2.17 per share, a year earlier. Analysts looked for $1.63 per share, according to the average on Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

``Earnings were strong across the board, driven by higher than expected U.S. oil production, lower unit costs and strong chemicals segment income,'' Sterne Agee analyst Tim Rezvan said.

Output rose 4 percent from a year ago to 766,000 barrels per day.

Shares of Conoco rose $1.08 to $57.03, while Occidental's shares were off 55 cents to $80.13 in late-morning trading.

NOBLE RECORDS DROP IN PROFIT

Smaller oil company Noble Energy Inc reported a 50 percent drop in third-quarter profit as output was hit by disruptions from Hurricane Isaac.

Oil and gas sales were 242,000 barrels of oil equivalent per day, up 11 percent from a year earlier.

Noble Energy shares rose nearly 1 percent to $91.03.

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