ExxonMobil profits rise on refining, chemicals

US oil giant ExxonMobil Friday reported higher fourth-quarter profits on better results in its refining and chemical divisions, which offset a drop in oil and gas production.

The US's largest oil company said net income for the fourth quarter came in at a $9.95 billion, up 6 percent from the year-earlier period of $9.4 billion.

The results overcame a five percent decline in Exxon's oil-equivalent production compared with the year-earlier period.

Exxon said overall profits in the exploration and production division, normally the cash cow of oil majors, fell 12 percent to $7.8 billion compared with a year earlier.

Profits from its refining and marketing division came in at $1.8 billion, more than four times the previous year's level. Chemical sector earnings of $958 billion were up 76.4 percent.

Like other major oil companies, Exxon has been boosting capital spending in recent years to respond to rising energy demand in Asia and other emerging economies.

Exxon's 2012 capital spending came in at $39.8 billion, up 8.2 percent from the 2011 level.

"Energy is fundamental to economic growth and improved living standards," the company said in a statement.

"ExxonMobil's strong financial performance enables continued investment in new energy supplies, which creates jobs and supports economic expansion."

Per-share profits came in at $2.20, compared with analyst forecasts of $2. Total revenues came in at $115.2 billion, roughly matching forecasts.

Exxon purchased 59 million shares of its common stock during the quarter at a total cost of $5.3 billion.

Its shares were up 0.5 percent in pre-market trading.