Conoco posts 2016 loss, but improves on 2015

Ryan Lance, ConocoPhillips CEO, speaks during the opening panel discussion of the 2015 IHS Energy CERAWEEK. (Brett Coomer/Houston Chronicle)

ConocoPhillips, the world’s largest independent oil company, stemmed 2016 losses via deep cost cuts, the company reported on Thursday.

Conoco, based in Houston, posted a fourth-quarter 2016 net loss of $35 million or 3 cents per share, one-tenth the losses of the same period in 2015.

Over the full year, Conoco lost $3.6 billion or $2.91 per share, $800 million or almost 20 percent better than 2015 earnings.

“Our recent performance highlights the significant changes we’ve made as a company to respond to a world of lower and more volatile commodity prices,” said Ryan Lance, chairman and chief executive officer.

Conoco weathered three quarters of dramatically lower revenues in 2016. Revenues in the first and second quarter of the year fell by about $3 billion each or more than one-third over the same quarter in 2015. Revenues in the third quarter fell by $1 billion or about 13 percent.

But the company reported on Thursday that revenues rebounded in the fourth quarter, increasing by almost $500 million or about 7 percent over the fourth quarter 2015.

RELATED: Oil industry looks for recovery but feels the bust

Full year revenues fell by more than $6.5 billion or 20 percent over 2015, to end at $24 billion.

At the same time, Conoco cut expenses in each quarter of 2016 by more than $1 billion or at least 11 percent over the same quarter in 2015. In the fourth quarter, the company cut by $4.6 billion or almost 40 percent over the same period in the prior year.

Conoco ended the year with expenses chopped by $8.3 billion or 21 percent over 2015. The biggest cuts came in production, of $1.5 billion; in purchased commodities, of $2.4 billion; and in exploration, of $2.3 billion, or half the 2015 spend.

Adjusted production increased to 1.54 million barrels of oil and gas per day, 3 percent higher than 2015, and included project starts in Australia, Canada, Europe, Malaysia and China, plus a “significant” discovery at the Willow prospect in Alaska. Conoco also made $1.3 billion from asset sales.

The company projected 2017 production to end flat or, at most, 2 percent up, to 1.57 million barrels per day.

ConocoPhillips shares had fallen by half a percent or 26 cents to $48.50 in early trading in New York.