ConocoPhillips Profit Falls Sharply On Oil Price Declines


April 30 (Reuters) - ConocoPhillips, the largest independent U.S. energy company, reported sharply lower quarterly profit on Thursday, hurt by a steep decline in crude oil prices.

Crude prices in the quarter tumbled by about half from a peak over $100 a barrel in June as global supplies grew and demand was dented by slowing economies in places like China. In recent weeks, crude has rebounded to around $60 a barrel.

ConocoPhillips, like other exploration and production companies, has slashed capital spending in response to persistently lower oil prices, and is further reducing its rig count for fields in the lower 48 U.S. states.

By the end of April, the Houston company's shale rig count will be down to 15 from 32 at the end of 2014, and will be pared to 12 rigs in the second half of the year, said Chief Financial Officer Jeff Sheets.

Production is expected to fall in the third and fourth quarters in the company's shale fields, including the Permian in West Texas and the Bakken in North Dakota. But total output was still expected to rise 2 percent to 3 percent for the year, Sheets said.

Profit in the first quarter slid to $272 million, or 22 cents per share, from $2.1 billion, or $1.71 per share, in the same period a year earlier.

Excluding one-time items including a tax benefit, Houston-based ConocoPhillips had a loss of $222 million, or 18 cents per share, near the loss of 19 cents that analysts expected, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

ConocoPhillips said the average price per barrel oil equivalent it received was $36.96, down from $71.21 in the same period a year earlier.

Oil and gas output from continuing operations excluding Libya was 1.6 million barrels of oil equivalent per day (boed) in the quarter, up 80,000 boed from a year ago.

Production was about 1 percent higher than Wall Street expected, according to analysts at Houston-based investment bank Tudor Pickering Holt.

Shares of ConocoPhillips fell 0.4 percent to $67.79 in afternoon New York Stock Exchange trading. So far this year, the stock is down about 2 percent, compared with a 15 percent gain in the SIG Exploration and Production Index.

(Reporting by Anna Driver in Houston; Editing by Franklin Paul and Jeffrey Benkoe)


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