Unocal and Occidental Post Improved Results

Times Staff Writer

Fueled by higher prices for oil and gas, Unocal Corp. and Occidental Petroleum Corp. on Wednesday reported higher revenues and earnings for the fourth quarter, a reversal from fourth-quarter losses at both companies in 2001.

The results for both Los Angeles-area firms gave a boost to their stock prices.

Unocal shares increased to $28.46, up 58 cents. Occidental rose 92 cents, or more than 3%, to $28.69. Both companies announced their earnings before the New York Stock Exchange opened.

Shares in San Ramon, Calif.-based ChevronTexaco Corp., which releases its fourth-quarter results Friday, rose $2.35, or almost 4%, to $65.30.

All three companies are benefiting from strong oil and gas prices, which have been boosted by concerns over Iraq and Venezuela, said Bryan Caviness, an industry expert at Fitch Ratings. "They've got the winds at their backs."

El Segundo-based Unocal, which focuses solely on finding and producing oil and gas, posted net income of $96 million, or 38 cents a share, for the three months ended Dec. 31, contrasted with a loss of $29 million, or 12 cents, a year earlier.

Unocal's fourth-quarter revenue rose to $1.57 billion, up 24% from the same quarter in 2001. The company's results in the final quarter of 2001 were affected by the aftermath of the Sept. 11 terrorist attack.

For the full year, Unocal's net income totaled $331 million, or $1.34 a share, almost half of 2001 net income of $615 million, or $2.50 a share. Revenue also suffered in 2002, falling 22% to $5.25 billion.

In a conference call, Unocal officials acknowledged that staff members at the Federal Trade Commission favor taking action against the company for allegedly illegal behavior involving certain gas formulation patents. A recommendation may come as soon as next month.

Los Angeles-based Occidental, a company in oil and gas as well as the chemical business, posted fourth-quarter net income of $322 million, or 84 cents a share, a reversal from a loss of $247 million, or 66 cents a share, in the like quarter in 2001. Revenue jumped 44% to $1.98 billion from $1.38 billion.

The company's full-year results fell behind 2001's performance. Occidental's 2002 net income totaled $989 million, or $2.61 a share, down 14% from $1.15 billion, or $3.09, a year earlier. Revenue fell 9% to $7.34 billion in 2002.

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