Oil exploration and production firm Apache ( APA) reported Thursday that its earnings in the previous quarter fell 5% from the same period a year ago, mostly because of steeper tax liabilities this time around. Apache earned $612 million, or $1.83 a share, in the third quarter of 2007, compared with $646 million, or $1.94 a share, one year earlier. Excluding a noncash charge of 34 cents a share, primarily related to the impact of foreign currency fluctuations on deferred tax balances, Apache's adjusted profit was $2.17. On average, analysts had expected the company to earn $1.97 a share, according to a survey conducted by Thomson Financial. Oil and gas production revenue rose to $2.5 billion from $2.1 billion a year earlier. Apache produced 561,412 barrels of oil equivalent a day in the quarter, 9% higher than the same period last year. "We remain on track to achieve the top end of our targeted range of 9% to 12% production growth in 2007," said CEO G. Steven Farris, in a press release. Farris said that exploration activities in the new growth areas of Australia, Canada and Egypt, as well as continuing development of its shale play in British Columbia, were all responsible for its strong production results. Apache earned an average $70.43 per barrel during the quarter, up 10% from the third quarter last year. The rapid increase in oil prices last quarter has seen many companies reporting higher realized prices during the latest round of earnings announcements.