Noble Energy

(NBL) - Get Report

swung to a fourth-quarter profit on a 50% rise in sales that reflected surging oil and gas prices.

The Houston energy company earned $87.4 million, or $1.48 a share, in the quarter, compared with a loss of $21.1 million, or 37 cents a share, last year. Revenue was $378.2 million in the latest period compared with $252.5 million last year. Analysts were predicting earnings of $1.48 a share on sales of $349.2 million for the 2004 quarter.

Noble said production rose 16% in 2004 over 2003 and that the company added new reserves of 116 million barrels of oil equivalent, excluding sales, in the year. That resulted in the replacement of 297% of 2004 production and led to overall growth in reserves of 15% over 2003.

In the fourth quarter, realized liquids prices rose 37% from a year ago, while averaged realized natural gas prices rose 28%. Realized methanol prices rose 23%, on average, over the year-ago period. Reported fourth quarter production rose 1% from a year ago, net of adjustments for discontinued operations.

The stock closed Friday at $64.86, just 26 cents below its 52-week high.