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Marathon's Profits Race Higher

Rising energy prices lead to fourth-quarter earnings that nearly triple.
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Higher energy prices meant good news for

Marathon Oil

(MRO) - Get Marathon Oil Corporation Report

, as the Houston-based company saw its fourth-quarter profit nearly triple year over year.

The company had earnings of $1.27 billion, or $3.43 a share, in the quarter, up from $429 million, or $1.23 a share, a year ago.

Excluding items, Marathon would have earned $1.33 billion, or $3.61 a share, in the fourth quarter, well above analysts' estimates of $3.02 a share.

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Revenue surged to $17.3 billion from $14.3 billion in the 2004 quarter.

"During the year we significantly increased our downstream presence by acquiring full ownership of our refining, marketing and transportation (downstream) operations," the oil and gas producer said Thursday. "This approximately $4 billion acquisition has already had a substantial positive impact on the company's 2005 financial results.

"Marathon also advanced plans for the future, which included announcing a proposed $2.2 billion expansion of the Garyville, La., refinery; a series of successful offshore discoveries; major progress in the construction of the Equatorial Guinea LNG Train 1 project; and our re-entry into Libya," the company added.

As a result of that return to Libya, Marathon expects to add about 165 million barrels of oil equivalent to its proved reserves. The company estimates this year's average daily net production available for sale will be 365,000 to 395,000 barrels of equivalent a day, up from 348,300 barrels of equivalent a day for 2005.

The company holds a 16.33% interest in Libya's Waha concessions.

Shares of Marathon were lower by 32 cents, or 0.4%, at $71.64.