Marathon Oil profit tops analysts' estimates on higher production

A Marathon Oil well site is seen in the Eagle Ford Shale oil field in south Texas

By Arathy Somasekhar

HOUSTON (Reuters) - Marathon Oil on Wednesday posted a third quarter profit that fell 44% from a year ago as energy prices fell, but results beat Wall Street analysts' forecasts on higher than expected oil and gas production.

Net production for the quarter rose nearly 20% to 421,000 barrels of oil and gas per day (boepd) from a year ago and was up about 6% from the prior quarter.

Prices for its crude oil were 13.6% below and gas prices were 70% below the year-ago quarter. But average realized prices for oil gained 11.6% and natural gas was 20% above the quarter ended June 30.

Marathon Oil also said it expects to post total oil and gas production and capital spending for the year at the higher end of previous guidance ranges.

It had previously forecast net production of 385,000 boepd to 405,000 boepd, and capital spending on projects at between $1.9 billion and $2 billion.

A recently signed liquefied natural gas sales agreement that has prices linked to the European natural gas market should lead to significant improvement in its Equatorial Guinea gas business next year, the Houston-based company said.

Adjusted third quarter profit was $466 million, or 77 cents a share, compared with the average analyst estimate of 71 cents per share, according to LSEG data. The company posted a profit of $832 million, or $1.24 per share, in the year-ago period.

(Reporting by Arathy Somasekhar in Houston)