ConocoPhillips joins rivals with bumper profit, boosts investor returns

A screen displays the logo for ConocoPhillips on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in New York City, U.S., April 6, 2022. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid/File Photo

Nov 3 (Reuters) - ConocoPhillips (COP.N) on Thursday extended a string of bumper earnings from oil producers enjoying higher energy prices by reporting a near two-fold rise in third-quarter profit that beat Wall Street estimates.

Shares of the company, which raised its equity buyback plan to $45 billion, jumped as much as 7.2% to a record high of $135.68.

The shale producer's earnings come amid growing calls for energy companies to pay more in taxes, after larger U.S. rivals Exxon Mobil (XOM.N) and Chevron (CVX.N) also reported windfall profit earlier this week.

ConocoPhillips raised its quarterly dividend by 11% and share buybacks by $20 billion, despite President Joe Biden's demands that oil companies invest their profit into boosting production before considering shareholder returns.

Biden on Monday called on major oil companies to stop "war profiteering", threatening to hit them with higher taxes if they do not increase production.

"The whole conversation around windfall profits taxes is not a helpful conversation right now," ConocoPhillips Chief Executive Officer Ryan Lance said on a post-earnings call.

He added that the administration could help by providing permitting relief for renewable projects "for any chance of going through an energy transition".

Chevron's finance chief warned in an interview with Reuters on Monday that "taxing production will just reduce it".

ConocoPhillips kept its 2022 production outlook unchanged, while it expects to produce between 1.74 and 1.80 million barrels of oil equivalent per day (boepd) in the fourth quarter.

Its production rose by 210,000 boepd to 1.75 million barrels boepd in the quarter, while its average realized price surged 46% to $83.07 per barrel of oil equivalent (boe).

The company, however, raised its annual operating capital forecast to $8.1 billion from $7.8 billion, citing inflationary impact.

Rapidly escalating costs, combined with extremely tight supply, are limiting the pace of industry-wide production growth, Lance added.

"The base dividend increase and buyback program increase will more than offset the slight increase to the FY capex budget," Tudor, Pickering, Holt & Co analysts wrote in a note.

The Houston, Texas-based company's net income nearly doubled from last year to $4.5 billion for the three months ended Sept. 30. Excluding items, ConocoPhillips earned $3.60 per share, beating analysts' average estimate of $3.44, according to Refinitiv.

Reporting by Arunima Kumar in Bengaluru; Editing by Sriraj Kalluvila, Arun Koyyur and Anil D'Silva

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.