UPDATE 1-Occidental profit beats on higher U.S. oil, natgas prices

Mon May 5, 2014 7:43am EDT

* First quarter profit $1.75/share vs est.$1.70

* Revenue up 4 pct to $6.09 bln

* U.S. crude prices up 5 pct, gas prices rise 15 pct (Adds details from statement, background, analysts' estimates, shares)

May 5 (Reuters) - Occidental Petroleum Corp, the fourth-largest U.S. oil and gas company, reported a better-than-expected profit for the third straight quarter, helped by higher prices for crude oil and natural gas in the United States.

The U.S. company, like rivals Hess Corp and Anadarko Petroleum Corp, is selling overseas assets and investing in the most-profitable shale fields in North America.

Occidental's output dipped 2 percent to 745,000 barrels of oil equivalent per day in the first quarter ended March 31.

The company said reduced gas-directed drilling in the United States, field and port strikes in Libya and insurgent activity in Yemen weighed on total production.

However, higher crude and natural gas prices in the United States helped Occidental make up for lower production. The company is also scaling back drilling for natural gas and focusing on drilling for the more lucrative crude oil.

Occidental's realized price for U.S. crude rose 5 percent to $95.94 in the January-March quarter, while domestic gas prices jumped 15 percent.

U.S. natural gas prices rose by about 50 percent in the quarter as harsh winter in North America sapped excess supplies at the key delivery point Henry Hub in Louisiana.

The rise in natural gas prices helped U.S. oil companies Exxon Mobil Corp and ConocoPhillips report first-quarter earnings that beat Wall Street expectations.

Occidental's net profit rose 2.6 percent to $1.39 billion, or $1.75 per share, in the quarter, while revenue rose nearly 4 percent to $6.09 billion.

The results were above the average analysts' estimate of a profit of $1.70 per share and revenue of $5.87 billion, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

The company said in October that it plans to sell a minority stake in its Middle East and North African operations, but is yet to announce a deal for the assets.

Occidental is also spinning off its oil and gas assets in California into a publicly traded company and has shifted base from Los Angeles to Houston to be closer to its operations in the Permian Basis in Texas and New Mexico.

Occidental's shares have risen about 4 percent in the last year to Friday's close of $94.44 on the New York Stock Exchange. (Reporting by Swetha Gopinath in Bangalore; Editing by Savio D'Souza)

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