Fourth-quarter profits at Pogo Producing Company ( PPP) nearly tripled from a year ago to $114.5 million.

The Houston-based oil exploration company said that its profit from continuing operation was $114.68 million, or $1.96 a share, compared to $46.25 million, or 72 cents a share, a year ago. Analysts polled by Thomson First Call were estimating $111.7 million, or $1.93 a share.

Revenue jumped by 81.62% to $419.6 million from $231.01 million a year ago driven by higher crude and natural gas prices coupled with increased crude oil production. The analyst consensus revenue estimate was at $406.6 million.

Pogo said that it is setting a capital spending and exploration budget of $725 million, including the drilling of 451 gross wells, for 2006.

The company said that it added oil and natural gas reserves of 761.6 billion cubic feet equivalent, resulting in a reserve addition that more than doubled its 2005 production. Its year-end 2005 estimated "equivalent proven oil and natural gas reserves" is now at a record total of 2.042 trillion cubic feet equivalent, some 657.2 bcfe of which is in Canada.

Pogo also hiked its quarterly dividend by 20% to 7.5 cents.
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