Exxon earnings miss expectations

If the oil giant wants to impress Wall Street, it will have to pay a higher dividend or grow its profits.

By Jonathan Berr Apr 26, 2012 9:59AM

Is Exxon Mobil (XOM) a dividend play these days? Considering its lackluster growth, it certainly seems so.

The world's largest publicly traded oil company on Thursday reported worse-than-expected quarterly results. Profit excluding one-time items fell 11% to $9.45 billion, or $2 a share, versus $10.65 billion, or $2.14 a share, a year earlier amid a 13% increase in capital and exploration expenditures. Revenue rose to $124 billion from $114 billion. Wall Street expectations were for profit of $2.09 on revenue of $124.76.

Shares, which have risen 2.47% this year, fell about 1.8% right after the open.

The results, while not awful, were not great either. Earnings at Exxon Mobil's three businesses -- upstream, downstream and chemicals -- fell during the quarter. The company reported its biggest first-quarter production slump since 2008. Oil-equivalent production fell 5% year over year. Natural gas production fell to 14.036 million cubic feet per day.

Separately, Exxon Mobil announced a 21% increase in its dividend payment. In the first quarter, that means a payment of 57 cents. On an annual basis, the dividend is $2.28 per share. According to The Associated Press, "the increase is the largest of any quarter-on-quarter rise since the current dividend practice began in 1975."

Exxon Mobil's yield is 2.6%, which is higher than the S&P 500 yield of about 2%. Investors interested in dividends, however, might want to consider other stocks, such as Altria (MO), Exelon (EXC) and Gannett (GCI). Moreover, 30-year Treasury bonds have an average yield of about 3.35%.

If Exxon wants to impress Wall Street, it will either have to pay a much higher dividend or find ways to grow its earnings.

Jonathan Berr does not own any of the shares listed here. Follow him on Twitter@jdberr

Tags: EXCMOXOM
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