The People of America's Oil and Natural Gas Indusry

Earnings: A Mixed Bag

Jane Van Ryan

Jane Van Ryan
Posted November 6, 2009

Eighteen oil and natural gas companies had reported their third quarter 2009 earnings as of yesterday afternoon, and the results have been a mixed bag. Companies that focus on oil and natural gas production--also called the upstream sector of the business--experienced a better financial quarter than large integrated companies that have both upstream and downstream operations--refining and marketing. The companies that fared worst are in the downstream portion of the business, and some of them actually lost money.

The chart below puts the companies' earnings in perspective.

Earnings chart.jpg

At this writing, the oil and natural gas industry in the third quarter of 2009 is averaging earnings of 5.8 cents per dollar of sales. That's far below the Dow Jones Industrial companies, which are averaging 9.7 cents on the dollar with 26 of 30 companies reporting third quarter results.

As we've stated before on this blog, oil and natural gas is a cyclical business. Its earnings rise and fall depending on several factors, including the economy, government policies and foul weather. Furthermore, it's misleading to use billion-dollar profit figures to describe earnings. Those figures only help to illustrate the overall size of a company. It's logical to expect larger companies to earn larger sums of money than small companies.

Read this primer for information about oil and natural gas industry earnings and related information.