October 29, 2015 / 11:13 AM / 3 years ago

Conoco posts quarterly loss, cuts 2015 spending target

(Reuters) - ConocoPhillips reported a third-quarter loss on Thursday, and the largest U.S. independent oil company lowered its 2015 spending target in response to the lingering slump in crude prices.

Conocophillips CEO Ryan Lance speaks during an interview with Maria Bartiromo, for her Fox Business Network show "Opening Bell with Maria Bartiromo" in New York April 8, 2015. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

The Houston-based company said it would divest assets and lower its cost structure in response to the more than 50 percent slide in crude oil prices from last year’s high of more than $100 per barrel.

Still, the company, which increased its quarterly dividend in July, remains committed to a “compelling” payout, Chief Executive Officer Ryan Lance said in a statement.

Conoco said it would further cut its 2015 capital budget, to $10.2 billion from $11.0 billion.

On a conference call with analysts, executives said Conoco planned to exit all deepwater exploration by 2017 as other projects win out in the budgeting process. Currently, it has deepwater operations in the Gulf of Mexico and offshore Senegal, Angola and Canada.

“Within our portfolio, (deepwater exploration) doesn’t look like an opportunity that competes for capital,” Chief Financial Officer Jeff Sheets said in an interview.

Conoco would also consider selling the deepwater prospects it is appraising, Sheets said.

The company posted a loss of $1.1 billion, or 87 cents per share, compared with a year-earlier profit of $2.7 billion, or $2.17 per share.

Excluding one-time items from restructuring and the cancellation of a Gulf of Mexico drillship contract, the loss was 38 cents per share. On that basis, analysts on average were expecting a loss of 37 cents, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

Output from continuing operations, excluding Libya, was 1.554 million barrels oil equivalent per day, compared with 1.473 mboed a year ago.

Shares of Conoco closed 0.5 percent higher at $53.62 on the New York Stock Exchange. So far this year, the stock is down nearly 23 percent.

Reporting by Anna Driver and Swetha Gopinath; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Lisa Von Ahn

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