Noble Energy 1Q Profit Easily Beats Expectations


April 24 (Reuters) - Oil and natural gas producer Noble Energy Inc posted a better-than-expected quarterly profit on Thursday, helped by a jump in production across its U.S. shale plays.

Houston-based Noble, which has shale oil and gas properties in places like the Marcellus in Pennsylvania and the DJ Basin in Colorado, is also developing giant natural gas fields in the eastern Mediterranean.

Conflict between Russia and Ukraine has stirred interest in gas from Noble's gas fields off the shore of Israel, but regional demand for the fuel from countries including Egypt and Jordan is also very strong, Noble Chief Executive Officer Chuck Davidson told analysts on a conference call.

"There's certainly a lot of work to be done in terms of possible European markets," said Davidson. "Yes there's interest there, but we've also got tremendous interest from our customers in the (Middle East) region."

The company recorded net income of $200 million, or 55 cents per share, in the first quarter, compared with $261 million, or 72 cents per share, in the year-ago quarter.

Excluding one-time items such as an income tax bill that more than doubled to $43 million and losses on hedging for oil and natural gas prices, Noble posted profit of 82 cents per share. By that measure, analysts expected 75 cents, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

Analyst Tim Rezvan at Sterne Agee said the prices Noble received for its domestic crude oil came in 4 percent above his expectations.


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