Energy

ConocoPhillips swings to quarterly loss and slashes budget, again

ConocoPhillips, the largest U.S. independent oil company, on Thursday reported a quarterly loss after a year-earlier profit and slashed its 2016 budget for the second time this year, its latest response to the slump in crude prices.

The company, like many of its peers, has had to grapple with shrinking margins resulting from low oil prices. It has slashed its dividend, cut staff and curbed the drilling of new wells, all while trying to preserve growth options should crude prices recover.

Oil prices touched a low of $27.10 per barrel during the first quarter before recovering to close at $39.60 at end of March.

Conoco Chief Executive Ryan Lance, trying to balance both approaches, said he would continue to curb costs while also trying to generate strong returns.

"As challenging as this price downturn has been, we are a much stronger company for the long term," Lance said in a statement.

Conoco reported a first-quarter net loss of $1.5 billion, or $1.18 per share, compared with a profit of $272 million, or 22 cents per share, a year earlier.

Excluding special items, the company lost 95 cents per share, compared with a loss of $1.05 per share expected by analysts on average.

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The Houston-based company cut its forecast for capital spending in 2016 to $5.7 billion from $6.4 billion, just two months after reducing it and slashing its dividend by 25 percent.

Production fell to 1.58 million barrels of oil equivalent per day from 1.61 million barrels.

For the year, Conoco said it still expects to reach a previously announced production target of roughly 1.53 million barrels of oil equivalent per day.

Total revenue and other income fell 37 percent to $5.02 billion.

ConocoPhillips Alaska reported a loss of $52 million in income for the first quarter of 2016, before income taxes. That's a smaller loss than operations in several other ConocoPhillips markets, and compares to income of $225 million during the same time last year in Alaska.

The company reported a $2 million loss in adjusted earnings in Alaska, compared to earnings of $146 million during the first quarter of 2015.

Though the company had previously announced $1.3 billion in capital spending in Alaska in 2016, communications specialist Amy Burnett said that number is now expected to be lower, at about $1 billion.

"Relative to other places in the company, our capital investment is still strong" in Alaska, Burnett said.

ConocoPhillips recently said that it will expand its CD5 drill site in the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska, which could add 18 wells onto the 15 already approved there.

On Thursday, Conoco's shares were up 51 cents, or 1 percent, at $48.62 in early trading.

Standard & Poor's on Monday downgraded ExxonMobil Corp.'s prestigious AAA credit rating, because slumping crude prices may crimp its ability to fund projects and return big amounts of cash to shareholders.

Alaska Dispatch News reporter Annie Zak contributed to this report.

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