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Marathon Oil 4Q net down on exploration, tax costs

HOUSTON (AP) -- Marathon Oil Corp. said Wednesday that its fourth-quarter net income fell 41 percent on higher exploration costs and taxes.

The company earned $322 million, or 45 cents per share, for the quarter that ended Dec. 31. That was down from $549 million, or 78 cents per share, during the same period a year earlier.

Revenue rose 11.2 percent to $4.24 billion.

Adjusting for special items, the company said it would have earned $388 million, or 55 cents per share. Analysts surveyed by FactSet expected profit of 68 cents per share on revenue of $3.79 billion.

Exploration and production is the company's biggest segment, and profits in that unit fell 10 percent to $501 million as exploration expenses jumped to $238 million from $140 million a year earlier.

Profits from oil sands mining fell to $19 million, from $63 million a year ago, because of an unexpected outage at a facility that upgrades heavy oil.

The company had a $1.3 billion provision for income taxes, almost double what it set aside a year earlier.

Marathon also wrote off $17 million of the value of its Ozona development in the Gulf of Mexico. The development is expected to be abandoned in first half of this year, and Marathon had to write off 420,000 barrels of oil equivalent from its reserves as it reduced production expectations.

Production during the recent quarter rose 32 percent to 487,000 barrels of oil equivalent per day.

Marathon Oil shares fell 57 cents to $34.15 in morning trading.