ConocoPhillips Q4 Profit Soars

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ConocoPhillips, the third-largest U.S. oil company, said its fourth-quarter earnings soared 60% thanks to higher oil prices and increased demand amid a recovering global economy. Higher oil prices helped Conoco offset a decline production felt from asset sales.

Texas-based Conoco (COP) earned $2.04 billion, or $1.39 a share, from $1.29 billion, or 86 cents, a year earlier. Excluding one-time items, Conoco's per share profit topped Wall Street estimates by a penny. The company is in the midst of a program to sell $10 billion in assets, including its stake in Russia's Lukoil, over the next two years to raise cash and shore up its balance sheet.

Revenue for the quarter came in at $53.2 billion, a 22% increase from the fourth quarter of 2009. Conoco's refining business posted a profit of $207 million compared with a loss of $215 million in the year earlier period. Chemical earnings more than doubled to $118 million, according to Bloomberg News.

Conoco repurchased 65 million of its own shares at a cost of $3.9 billion last year. The company ended 2010 with about $10.4 billion in cash and short-term investments, and said it plans to use a ''significant portion'' of that for more share buybacks, Bloomberg reported.

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