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ExxonMobil reports record profits

Oil giant ExxonMobil announced record profits in its annual results yesterday ? $25.3 billion, not only the largest ever for the company but the largest for any public company ever.

The corporate's annual profit rose 18% last year, with sales rising 26% to $298 billion. This eclipses the previous best of $22.1 billion at Ford in 1998. The fourth quarter of the year was also the largest ever quarter profits that the company has reported, at $8.42 billion ($1.30 per share).

Although much of the company's profits can be put down to high oil prices, there were also substantial improvements at operating company level. Upstream earnings, largely driven by crude and natural gas prices, were $4.89 billion, an increase of $1.6 billion from fourth quarter 2003 results. But downstream earnings, driven by refining margins and improved marketing results, more than tripled to $2.34 billion from $0.74 billion and chemical earnings more than doubled to $1.248 billion from $0.476 billion.

This was despite heavy spending. Chairman Lee Raymond pointed out that: ?ExxonMobil continued its active investment programme in 2004, spending $4.233 billion on capital and exploration. During the fourth quarter, the corporation also acquired 61 million shares at a gross cost of $3.041

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