Conoco quarterly profit rises, shares edge up

HOUSTON (Reuters) - ConocoPhillips COP.N, the third-largest U.S. oil company, reported a 54 percent increase in quarterly profit on Wednesday as proceeds from asset sales and higher crude prices and refining margins boosted results.

Conoco has an ongoing program to shed assets it believes are better suited for others as the oil company focuses on improving returns by cutting debt and buying back shares. As expected, those sales have hit the Houston company’s oil and gas output and reserve growth.

Profit in the fourth quarter was $2 billion, or $1.39 per share, compared with $1.3 billion, or 86 cents per share, a year earlier.

Fourth-quarter 2010 adjusted earnings were $1.9 billion, or $1.32 per share, compared with of $1.8 billion, or $1.20 per share a year ago. Analysts on average had expected a profit of $1.32 per share, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

Oil and gas output in the quarter was 1.73 million barrels of oil equivalent (BOE) per day, down from 1.83 million BOE per day in the same period in 2009.

Revenue was $53.2 billion, up from $43.7 billion a year ago.

Conoco said a significant portion of its $10.4 billion in cash and short-term investments will be used for more share repurchases.

Shares of Houston-based Conoco rose to $67.70 in premarket trading, up from Tuesday’s New York Stock Exchange close of $67.48.

Reporting by Anna Driver; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn, Dave Zimmerman