The Week That Was: Billion-dollar barrels keep oil giants on a roll

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It was a bumper week for several oil majors, which reported surging third-quarter profits off the back of the liquid gold's price strength earlier in the year.

While the price of oil is now about $61, prices peaked at $78 in July and averaged more than $70 a barrel during the quarter, helping ExxonMobil, the world's biggest oil company, lift third-quarter profit by 6 per cent to a whopping $10.5bn (£5.6bn). US oil company Chevron reported a 40 per cent rise in third-quarter profit to $5bn, while Royal Dutch Shell, hit by shut-downs in Nigeria, beat analyst forecasts when it posted a profit of $6.9bn, down from $7.19bn a year earlier. BP's Texas refinery explosion earlier this year pushed the group's third-quarter net profit after tax 3.6 per cent down to $6.23bn. Shell will have to wait another month for a decision on regulatory approval for its $20bn Sakhalin-2 oil and gas project after Russia's environmental agency extended its investigation.

But there was no waiting for good news for investors who managed to get a slice of the world's biggest stock market float, the Industrial & Commercial Bank of China, which listed on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange of Friday. ICBC's shares jumped 14.6 per cent to HK$3.52, increasing its market capitalisation by $26bn (£14bn) to $156.5bn.

Shareholders in Rio Tinto were also smiling after the miner revealed it would return $3bn in cash, adding to the $4bn it committed to return earlier in the year.

The world's largest software company, Microsoft, beat analyst expectations with a third-quarter net profit of $3.48bn, up from $3.14bn a year ago.

But fellow US giant Ford disappointed, posting a third-quarter net loss of $5.8bn, its worst single-quarter loss in 14 years. However, cost cuts helped rival General Motors restrict third-quarter losses to $115m, compared to a $1.7bn loss in the same period a year ago.

Sliding out of profit was Newcastle United, which posted a £12m loss, compared to a £620,000 profit the year before. The club blamed the expensive signing of striker Michael Owen and a lack of ticket sales after failing to qualify for Europe. Scoring goals however was Manchester City, posting an operating profit of £5.1m, against £3.5m a year earlier.

Profits took a hit on the high street with Sir Philip Green's Arcadia group, which owns Top Shop, delivering a pre-tax profit of £202m, compared to £253m a year earlier. Meanwhile Debenhams warned that September's unseasonably warm weather has impacted sales. It said like-for-like sales fell 4.2 per cent in the past seven weeks as it posted a 68 per cent rise in annual profits before one-offs to £112.8m.

Meanwhile, leisure group Whitbread, which owns Costa Coffee, reported a 21 per cent rise in interim pre-tax profit to £109.8m and revealed it was in talks to sell its struggling restaurant chain TGI Friday's.

A fresh buyer for developer John Laing emerged with German insurer Allianz trumping fund manager Henderson's 355p per share bid. Allianz's bid, 30p a share higher than Henderson's, was agreed by John Laing and values the developer at £903.1m.

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