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Exxon profit sags on oil price drop, but taxes, Venezuela ruling help

Exxon profit sags on oil price drop, but taxes, Venezuela ruling help
An Exxon sign is seen at a gas station in Manassas, Va. (Karen Bleier / AFP/Getty Images)

Exxon Mobil Corp.'s earnings fell 21% in the fourth quarter because of a sharp drop in global crude oil prices. But results still beat Wall Street expectations on lower taxes, a favorable ruling in a dispute with Venezuela, and a strong performance from its chemical division.

Exxon said Monday that it earned $6.57 billion in the final three months of last year on revenue of $87.28 billion. That's down from $8.35 billion on revenue of $110.86 billion a year earlier.

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On a per-share basis, the Irving, Texas, company said it earned $1.56 a share. The results beat Wall Street expectations, but Exxon does not adjust its reported results based on one-time events such as asset sales. The average estimate of analysts surveyed by Zacks Investment Research was for earnings of $1.33 a share.

Oil prices declined sharply throughout the quarter, reducing Exxon revenue and profit. Lower crude prices meant its chemical and refining operations were able to buy oil — the raw material for fuels and many chemicals — for much less. That helped boost chemical earnings 35% to $1.2 billion, but higher maintenance costs pushed refining profits lower.

Exxon said its net income got a $1-billion boost from deferred income taxes in the U.S. and an arbitration ruling over assets in Venezuela that had been seized by the Venezuelan government.

Exxon shares rose $2.16, or 2.5%, to $89.58.

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