U.S. oil giant Exxon Mobil Corp. saw profits plunge by 63 percent in the first quarter as low crude prices and weak refining margins undercut its earnings.
The company Friday reported net income of $1.8 billion, or 43 cents per share, compared with $4.9 billion, or $1.17 per share, in the same period last year.
Exxon (NYSE:XOM), the world’s largest publicly traded oil producer, said production rose 2 percent in the first quarter to 4.3 million barrels of oil equivalent per day. Strong results in its chemical sector also helped to partly offset losses in the upstream production and downstream refining sectors.
Exxon’s results still beat expectations from analysts, who predicted the Irving, Texas, oil giant would report earnings of 29 cents per share and non-GAAP earnings of 31 cents per share in the first three months of 2016.
Shares in Exxon were listed at $88.07 before the market open in New York.
Exxon and nearly every other energy producer have seen earnings decline with the collapse in crude prices. Brent crude, the global benchmark, and West Texas Intermediate, the U.S. oil-price gauge, are both trading at around 60 percent below their June 2014 peaks of over $100 a barrel.
To weather the punishing market, oil and gas firms have delayed or canceled billions of dollars of investments and laid off thousands of workers. Exxon said its capital and exploration expenditures totaled $5.1 billion in the first quarter, a 33 percent drop from the $7.7 billion it spent in the same period a year ago.
The company’s longtime pristine credit rating was tarnished earlier this week after Standard & Poor’s downgraded the company to AA+, ending Exxon’s 86-year-streak of perfect AAA ratings. The credit agency pointed to the weak oil price environment, the high costs of maintaining oil operations, and Exxon’s high dividend and share buyback spending.
During the first quarter, Exxon said it distributed $3.1 billion in dividends to shareholders, about 20 percent less than the $3.9 billion it distributed in the first quarter of 2015.