DALLAS -- Exxon Mobil Corp. said Friday that fourth-quarter earnings rose 6 percent to $9.95 billion with help from higher refining profit margins.
The company still makes most of its money by producing oil and gas, but that end of the business was less profitable than a year ago because of lower prices and production. Exxon made up the difference in the refining business.
The nation's biggest oil company said Friday that net income equaled $2.20 per share, compared with $9.4 billion, or $1.97 per share, a year earlier.
Revenue fell 5 percent to $115.17 billion, a drop of $6.44 billion.
Analysts surveyed by FactSet expected profit of $1.99 per share on revenue of $115.22 billion.
Profit from exploration and production of oil and gas fell 12 percent but still totaled $7.76 billion, more than three-fourths of Exxon Mobil's income for the quarter. Production fell 5 percent, oil prices dipped, and the company took in less money from asset sales.
Exxon Mobil produces most of its oil outside the United States. Profit from overseas production tumbled by nearly one-fifth, but Exxon partly offset that by boosting its profit from U.S. production by more than one-third.
Outside of exploration and production, most of Exxon's other profit comes from refining and selling petroleum products such as gasoline, diesel and jet fuel. That business did very well in the fourth quarter, earning $1.8 billion, an increase of more than $1.3 billion from a year earlier, mainly due to higher refining margins.
Other oil refiners have also reported better margins this earnings season as they switched from foreign crude to cheaper U.S. oil.
Irving, Texas-based Exxon Mobil said it spent $5 billion during the quarter buying back its own shares.
In trading before Friday's opening bell, the shares were up 54 cents to $90.51. They gained 4 percent in January.