Exxon makes history with $36bn profit

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The Independent Online

The company's turnover last year of $371bn, up from $298bn in 2004, would position it among the world's biggest economies. The figure would probably make Exxon's revenues equivalent to the 17th biggest economy, just behind Russia but well ahead of Taiwan or Sweden.

The profit figure after tax of $36.1bn benefited from an astonishing $10.7bn in the fourth quarter - compared with $25.3bn for the whole of 2004. Before tax, profits came in at $59.4bn, from $41.2bn previously.

The news will give more ammunition to the oil companies' critics - who accuse them of profiteering on a massive scale - amid calls from politicians on both sides of the Atlantic for windfall taxes on oil businesses. The Anglo-Dutch Shell reports figures later this week.

Rex W Tillerson, newly installed as Exxon's chairman, said: "We recognise consumers worldwide want and need reliable supplies of affordable energy. Our strong financial results will continue to allow us to make significant, long-term investments required to do our part in meeting the world's energy needs."

The company's crude-oil production rose 2.5 per cent to 2.63 million barrels a day as new wells in Africa more than made up for declining output in the North America, Europe and Asia.

Exxon said it distributed $23.2bn to investors in 2005 through dividend payments and share purchases - a rise of 56 per cent on the previous year.