ConocoPhillips' 1Q Earnings Disappoint

ConocoPhillips (NYSE:COP) said lower-than-expected capacity and higher compensation expenses dragged its first-quarter profit below Wall Street estimates.

The Houston, Texas-based energy company posted net earnings of $3 billion, or $2.09 a share, compared with $2.1 billion, or $1.40 a share, in the same quarter last year.

Excluding gains from asset dispositions, the company earned $1.82 a share, short of average analyst estimates polled by Thomson Reuters of $1.97.

In a statement, ConocoPhillips CEO Jim Mulva said the company’s financial results were much improved from a year ago, though exploration and production and refining and marketing capacity utilization fell below its targets.

“The quarter was negatively impacted by approximately $200 million from unplanned downtime and from variable compensation expense related to prior-year performance,” he said.

Earnings were positively impacted by higher commodity prices and global refining margins, partially offset by lower production volumes, the absence of equity earnings from Lukoil and higher taxes.

The oil explorer and refiner said it reached production of 1.7 million barrels of oil equivalent per day, which is a decrease of about 125,000 BOE per day in the year-earlier period. Decreasing production by 190,000 BOE a day were field declines in the North Sea, Lower 48, China and Alaska, partially offset by 180,000 BOE per day of new production.

Cushioning he results were flat controllable costs, though variable compensation expenses related to prior-year performance negatively impacted earnings by about $50 million.

In the three-month period, ConocoPhillips generated $4 billion in cash from operations, which excluded working capital increases of $2.1 billion, and it received $1.8 billion in proceeds from asset dispositions.

Proceeds were used to fund a $3.1 billion capital program, repurchase $1.6 billion of its share, pay $900,000 in dividends and reduce debt by $400,000.