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El Paso Corp. 4Q profits more than double

HOUSTON (AP) -- Greater production and rising energy prices more than doubled El Paso Corp.'s net income during the fourth quarter,

The Houston company, which explores for oil and natural gas and operates gas pipelines, said it earned $185 million, or 24 cents per share, in the three-months ended Dec. 31. That compares with $62 million, or 9 cents per share, for the same part of 2010. Revenue increased by 25.2 percent to $1.23 billion.

El Paso said it earned an adjusted 28 cents per share, when excluding special gains and losses.

Analysts, who typically exclude special items, expected profit of 29 cents per share on revenue of $1.37 billion, according to FactSet.

El Paso increased natural gas production by 7.5 percent and oil production by 53.6 percent in the fourth quarter. During that period, it sold oil for $93.24 per barrel, up 21.1 percent from the same period of 2010. It sold natural gas for $3.54 per 1,000 cubic feet, down 6.6 percent from the fourth quarter of 2010.

For the full year, El Paso said it earned $141 million, or 18 cents per share, compared with $721 million, or $1 per share, in 2010. Annual revenue rose by 5.3 percent to $4.86 billion.

Meanwhile, El Paso Pipeline Partners, a limited partnership formed by El Paso Corp., said that net income grew 18 percent in the fourth quarter as it expanded its pipeline network.

The Houston natural gas pipeline and storage company reported earnings of $105 million, or 51 cents per unit, for the three months ended Dec. 31. That compares with $89 million, or 53 cents per unit, for the same part of 2010. Revenue increased by 2.8 percent to $362 million.

Analysts had expected earnings of 60 cents per unit on sales of $390.7 million, according to FactSet.

El Paso said that its quarterly earnings reflected increased revenues from an expansion of its pipeline network and the acquisition of additional stakes in a variety of companies including the Southern LNG Co. and El Paso Elba Express Co.

For the full year, El Paso said it earned $401 million, or $2.03 per unit, compared with $281 million, or $1.90 per share, in 2010. Annual revenue increased by 6 percent to $1.43 billion.

In morning trading, El Paso Corp. shares rose by 22 cents, or less than 1 percent, to $27.38. El Paso Pipeline units gave up 20 cents, or less than 1 percent, to $37.81.