ConocoPhillips 3Q Profit Up on Nigeria Asset Sale

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ConocoPhillips, the largest U.S. independent oil company, reported higher third-quarter profit on Thursday, lifted by the sale of its Nigerian business.

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Over the last several years, Conoco has shed lower-margin assets, directing more capital to projects like shale drilling in the United States that offer higher returns and higher production growth.

Profit rose to $2.7 billion, or $2.17 per share, from $2.5 billion, or $2.00 per share, in the 2013 third quarter.

Excluding items such as the proceeds from the sale of its Nigerian business in July and a tax benefit, Conoco had a profit of $1.29 per share. Analysts, on average, expected $1.20, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S. The proceeds from the Nigerian sale were $1.4 billion.

Even as crude prices have fallen more than 20 percent in recent weeks on increased supply and waning demand, Conoco's chief executive officer expressed optimism about next year.

"We expect strong growth in 2015 driven by ongoing success in the North American unconventionals and startup of several major projects, including Surmont 2 and APLNG." CEO Ryan Lance said in statement.

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Surmont is an oil sands project in Canada and APLNG is a liquefied natural gas project in Australia. Unconventional drilling refers to shale drilling.

Conoco said its total realized oil price was $64.78 in the third quarter, down from $69.68 a year earlier.

ConocoPhillips had third-quarter oil and gas production from continuing operations, excluding Libya, of 1.473 million barrels oil equivalent per day (boed), up 25,000 boed from a year ago.

For the full year, Conoco forecast production from continuing operations to rise to 1.525 million boed to 1.535 million boed, excluding Libya.

(Reporting by Anna Driver in Houston; Editing by W Simon and JS Benkoe)