Murphy Oil's Earnings Advance

Fourth-quarter revenue rises to $3.2 billion.
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Rising oil and gas prices along with a tax benefit helped

Murphy Oil

(MUR) - Get Report

post higher fourth-quarter earnings than it did a year ago, but the results were somewhat held back by hurricane expenses, higher exploration costs and downtime at its Gulf of Mexico production facilities.

The company had net income in the fourth quarter of $154.6 million, or 82 cents a share, compared with a profit of $134.5 million and 72 cents a share in the same period a year earlier. Analysts surveyed by Thomson First Call were looking for earnings of 79 cents.

Revenue rose to $3.2 billion from $2.3 billion.

Expenses related to last year's hurricanes totaled $32.7 million, mainly for added insurance, repairs and other ongoing costs at Murphy's Meraux, La., refinery. The company's crude oil and gas liquids production from continuing operations averaged 91,732 barrels a day in the fourth quarter, down from 93,632 barrels in the 2004 quarter.

Hurricanes Katrina and Rita reduced Murphy's U.S. production by about 14,800 barrels of oil a day and 40 million cubic feet of natural gas in the most recent quarter.

Almost all of the company's Gulf of Mexico production had restarted at the end of the year. Crude oil sales volumes from continuing operations averaged 95,886 barrels a day in the fourth quarter, up from 81,282 barrels the previous year. Natural gas sales volumes from continuing operations totaled 72 million cubic feet a day, down from 92 million cubic feet a year ago.

For the first quarter, Murphy is forecasting total worldwide production of 115,000 barrels of oil equivalent a day. Earnings will likely be 50 cents to 90 cents a share, including estimated repair costs at the Meraux refinery that aren't likely to be covered by insurance.

Because the estimated range reflects certain costs, it isn't necessarily comparable with Wall Street's consensus target of $1.13.