As oil companies' profits plunge, industry braces for more turmoil

After months of falling crude prices, major oil companies are reporting stunning profit declines that are expected to cause more turmoil on global stock markets this winter.

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British oil company BP said Tuesday that its fourth-quarter earnings plunged a whopping 91 per cent because of the sharp decline in oil prices. The company’s underlying replacement cost profit fell to $196 million from $2.2 billion this time last year.

BP said 2015 was its worst year in at least three decades. The company will cut an additional 3,000 job losses globally by the end of 2017.

“It's going to be a very turbulent year for our industry," BP CEO Bob Dudley said in London.

Although BP’s financial woes are still tied to massive costs related to the company’s 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, other major industry players are not faring well this quarter either.

Imperial Oil Ltd., a Calgary-based subsidiary of ExxonMobil, also reported a dramatic decline in profits on Tuesday. It earned $102 million or 12 cents per diluted share in the fourth quarter, down from $671 million of 79 cents per diluted share.

The Texas-based ExxonMobil, meanwhile, reported a fourth-quarter profit of $2.78 billion. That may have exceeded Wall Street expectations, but overall projections for the oil and gas industry have been “woefully low” in recent months, said BNN reporter Jameson Berkow.

After the benchmark for internationally-produced oil,Brent crude, hit a 12-year low of $27.10 a barrel in January, experts predict that things will only get worse when oil companies announce their first-quarter results for 2016, about three months from now.

“Just looking at the numbers so far, you can see how much financial carnage is being exacted on the oil and gas industry globally,” Berkow said. “What that means for Canada, as a marginal producer, is nothing particularly positive.”

Benchmark U.S. oil was down $1.51, or 4.9 per cent, to $30.09 per barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange on Tuesdaymorning, a day after it plunged nearly 6 per cent. Brent crude was down $1.66, or 4.9 per cent, to $32.60 a barrel in London.

With files from The Associated Press


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