Strong Quarter for Marathon Oil

Strong Quarter for Marathon Oil

Marathon Oil Corp.’s first-quarter profit rose 2 percent. The company earned $731 million, or $1.02 per share, in the January-March period compared with $717 million, or $1.03 per share, for the same quarter in 2007.

Revenue jumped 39 percent to $18.1 billion from $13 billion last year.

Excluding one-time items, Marathon posted an adjusted profit of $767 million, or $1.07 per share. Analysts polled by Thomson Financial expected profit of 82 cents per share.

On the exploration and production side, earnings rose to $684 million from $385 million a year ago, as higher prices outweighed rising exploration costs.

But refining, marketing and transportation swung to a loss of $75 million in the quarter from earnings of $345 million in the first quarter of 2007.

In addition to lower margins, the company said downstream results were hurt by more planned maintenance at refineries in Detroit, Garyville, La., and Robinson, Ill.

“We believe they (Marathon) are likely to outperform their peers and the S&P 500 in the next 12-18 months,” said Oppenheimer & Co. analyst Fadel Gheit. “Benefits from strong production growth, from 2007 depressed levels, as a result of new projects and restored volume from existing projects, should more than offset the impact from lower downstream results due to weak margins.”

Marathon shares rose $1.65, or 3.6 percent, to $47.22 in afternoon trading.

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