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How Can Exxon Make A Giant Profit And Conoco A Giant Loss? Gas Is Gas, Right?

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After reading about ExxonMobil's record $45.2 billion annual profit, Hair Balls was scratching our head over why Exxon had a profitable fourth quarter, when Conoco lost $31.8 billion. Does Exxon jack up the cost of Little Debbies at its stores or something?

Fortunately, we caught Hoover's Oil & Gas Industry editor Stuart Hampton just as he was going out the door today, and he gave us the short and sweet: "In short, ExxonMobil is a bigger, well-managed operation that has made wiser choices in its exploration and production acquisitions and alliances in recent years. CononoPhillips was involved in more risky ventures and had to write down a bunch of these assets in Q4 2008." (Hair Balls was kind of bummed our overpriced mini-donuts conspiracy didn't really pan out).

Hampton also pointed us to some insight from Zacks senior oil & gas industry analyst Sheraz Mian, who was recently quoted on the Zacks website as saying that Exxon's "capital discipline, cost controls and operating efficiencies are legendary, to say the least."

Mian went on: ""...[I]nstead of making pricey acquisitions or investing in dubious projects, as many of its peers did through the cycle, it returned the excess cash it generated to shareholders through a growing dividend and share buybacks, while continuing to invest growing amounts in exploration and production [E&P] activities."

Sounds like some folks in Conoco need to pay more attention to the way ExxonMobil does business. Either that, or jack up the Little Debbies.

-- Craig Malisow

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