Exxon Mobil Tops Earnings Estimates; Boosts Dividends

Sean Tracz
Jeff Kowalsky | Bloomberg | Getty Images
Sean Tracz

Exxon Mobil reported quarterly earnings and revenue that topped market expectations on Thursday, lifted by chemical product sales that allowed the company to counterbalance a decline in oil — its traditional strength.

The world's most valuable company as measured by market capitalization saw oil production fall by 3.5 percent during the first quarter, amid volatile global oil markets. However, Exxon ramped up capital on exploration during the quarter, to $11.8 billion — up 33 percent from the comparable year-ago period.

During the quarter, Exxon saw its performance boosted by its refinery and chemicals businesses. The increase in profitability helped the company to distribute $7.6 billion worth of dividends to shareholders. Yet Exxon's earnings beat was based largely on a buyback that cut the amount of shares outstanding by five percent.

"In a situation where oil is going to be relatively flat over the course of this year, we think it represents kind of an expensive stock in people's portfolios," said Fadel Gheit, an oil and gas analyst at Citibank, to CNBC.

After the earnings announcement, the company's shares fell by nearly one percent in early trading on the New York Stock Exchange. (Click here for Exxon's latest quote.)

The company posted first-quarter earnings excluding items of $2.12 per share, up from earnings of $2.00 a share in the year-earlier period, on revenue of $108.8 billion.

Analysts expected Exxon Mobil to report earnings of $2.05 a share, according to estimates from Thomson Reuters.

Exxon's chemical profits rose 62 percent during the quarter. Meanwhile, U.S. oil production accounted for the majority of the company's product sales, reflecting the recent energy boom in the world's largest economy.