ExxonMobil profits soar 69 percent in first quarter

ExxonMobil Corp., the world’s largest publicly traded oil company, said first quarter earnings jumped 69 percent on higher oil prices, improved performance at its refining and chemical units and increased oil and natural gas production.

Net income rose to $10.7 billion, or 2.14 per share, from $6.3 billion, or $1.33 a share, in the same period a year ago, the Irving-based oil giant said in a statement this morning. Revenues climbed to $114 billion, from $90 billion in the January-to-March period in 2010.

Analysts on average had expected Exxon to report a first-quarter profit of $2.06 per share, according to a poll by Thomson Financial Network.

The quarterly earnings were the company’s best since it reported $14.8 billion in profits in the third quarter of 2008, when oil prices spiked to a record $147 a barrel.

“ExxonMobil’s earnings reflect continued leadership in operational performance during a period of strong commodity prices,” CEO Rex Tillerson said in a statement.

In the first quarter, crude oil prices once again topped $100 a barrel, after trading closer to $80 a barrel a year ago, amid civil unrest in the Middle East and the continuing economic recovery, which has boosted demand for petroleum products globally. Soaring crude prices have in turn sent retail gasoline prices in the U.S. above $4 a gallon in many parts of the country, and made higher oil company profits the subject of sharp criticism by politicians, special interest groups and the public.

ExxonMobil said higher sale prices for crude oil and natural gas increased its earnings by nearly $2.6 billion in the quarter.

The company said it also benefited from a 10 percent increase in production, to 4.82 million barrels oil equivalent per day.

Elsewhere, the company posted record earnings in its chemicals unit of $1,516 million, which were $267 million higher than the first quarter of 2010. And downstream refining earnings jumped to $1 billion, up from $37 million a year ago, as global demand for gasoline, diesel and other refined fuels increased.