ExxonMobil’s earnings slowed from a peak earlier in the year but the oil giant still reached a full-year record profit more than double what it reported a year ago.
The company earned adjusted income of $14 billion in the quarter, down from the record $18.7 billion it earned in the third quarter, but it was up from $8.8 billion in the fourth quarter of 2021. That was also better than the forecast from analysts surveyed by Refinitiv.
The solid fourth quarter lifted full-year earnings to $59.1 billion from $23 billion in 2021, and well above the previous record net income of $45.2 billion it reported for 2008, the year that saw the record high for oil and US gasoline prices before the records set last year.
The company was helped by soaring oil prices following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine nearly a year ago. But oil prices have been coming down from the peak reached in June, and are now down to pre-invasion levels.
Oil companies such as ExxonMobil have faced criticism from the White House and some members of Congress for taking much of the profit and using it to repurchase shares and increase dividend, rather than increase production.
CEO Darren Woods defended the company’s investments in production, saying the company’s North American refineries had their greatest output ever, and that it had its highest global refinery production since 2012.
“Our results clearly benefited from a favorable market,” said Woods. “But, to take full advantage of the undersupplied market our work began years ago, well before the pandemic when we chose to invest counter-cyclically. We leaned in when others leaned out, bucking conventional wisdom. We continued with these investments through the pandemic and into today.”
Still, the company returned $29.8 billion to shareholders during the year, with about half of it coming through dividends and half through share repurchases.
That compares to $22.4 billion in spending on exploration and other capital spending. It also reported a $22.8 billion, or 336%, increase in cash on hand, ending the year with $29.6 billion in cash on its balance sheet. And it repaid $7 billion in debt.
The full-year results come to an average of $1,874 of profit for every second during the course of the year. Since it takes about two minutes to pump 20 gallons of gas, that means that in the time it takes to fill a nearly empty tank of a full-size SUV or pickup, ExxonMobil earned about $225,000, on average.
Shares of ExxonMobil were slightly lower in premarket trading initially after the report, perhaps on investor disappointment that no new share repurchase program was announced. But shares were slightly higher in morning trading after the open.