February 13, 2019 / 9:44 PM / 6 days ago

Marathon Oil profit beats on higher U.S. production

(Reuters) - Marathon Oil Corp beat analysts’ estimates for fourth-quarter profit on Wednesday, on the back of higher production at its U.S. shale assets and said it expects oil output to grow 10 percent in 2019.

The company has been looking to divest its North Sea assets and focus on the rising shale oil production in the United States. The U.S. recently surpassed Saudi Arabia and Russia to become the world’s top crude producer.

Houston-based Marathon said production from the Bakken shale jumped 37 percent to 94,000 barrels of oil equivalent per day (boe/d).

North Dakota’s Bakken is the country’s third-largest shale oil field and extracting crude there is cheaper than the top Permian, making it an attractive bet for oil producers.

Rival Occidental Petroleum Corp reported better-than-expected earnings on Tuesday, while Hess Corp posted a smaller-than-expected loss last month.

For 2019, Marathon forecast total production between 410,000 boe/d and 430,000 boe/d, with U.S. production of 320,000 boe/d to 330,000 boe/d.

However, a nearly 30 percent drop in oil prices from October highs on the back of oversupply concerns has led to producers cutting back on capital expenditure. Marathon expects to spend $2.6 billion in 2019, down nearly 6 percent from last year.

The company’s net income was $390 million, or 47 cents per share, in the fourth quarter ended Dec. 31, compared to a loss of $28 million, or 3 cents per share, a year earlier.

On an adjusted basis, the company earned 15 cents per share, beating analysts’ estimates of 14 cents per share, according to IBES data from Refinitiv.

In the reported quarter, U.S. production rose to 306,000 boe/d from 262,000 boe/d.

Reporting by Debroop Roy in Bengaluru; Editing by Shounak Dasgupta

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