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ExxonMobil CEO Expects Output Growth in Second Half of Year

Noting concerns that production fell 5% in the first quarter from a year earlier, ExxonMobil Corp. CEO Lee Raymond said Wednesday that new projects ramping up in the next six months should lift oil and natural gas output "significantly."

Raymond, who spoke at the annual shareholder meeting in Dallas, said that excluding production sharing contracts and related issues, the company will show more growth in exploration and production volumes over the next three to four years.

"What we have seen for volumes so far this year will start to change significantly as we get into the second half of the year and major projects start to come online," Raymond said. More than 30 projects worldwide are forecast to start up over the next three years.

Raymond also answered charges from dissident shareholders who challenged the oil major about its lack of environmental and global warming initiatives. All of the dissident proposals were defeated.

In his opening remarks, Raymond said ExxonMobil is committed "to the highest ethical standards," and said the company had an "outstanding record in safety, health and the environment." He noted that the company is investing in technology that it hopes will improve energy efficiency and help reduce emissions of greenhouse gases.

ExxonMobil shareholders defeated a proposal that would require it to report on the potential environmental damage of drilling in protected areas, along with a proposal requiring it to report how it will meet greenhouse gas reduction targets in countries that have adopted the Kyoto Protocol. Another defeated resolution would have required the company to publish the scientific data used to establish its global warming statements.

"We have a lot of concerns about the longterm vision" of the company, said John Wilson, a representative of Christian Brothers Investment Services, which has led the dissident faction for the past several years over environmental issues.

Raymond told shareholders he thinks the company "is a leader in climate science." However, in its proxy materials, the company reiterated its view that "scientific evidence remains inconclusive" regarding greenhouse-gas induced climate change. It noted, however, that "the potential impacts of controllable greenhouse gas emissions on society and ecosystems may prove to be significant," and said the company is taking measures to address the issue.

In other news, shareholders elected William W. George to the board of directors. George is professor of management practice at Harvard Business School and former chairman and CEO of Medtronic Inc. With George's election, the ExxonMobil board stands at 11 directors, nine of whom are nonemployees.

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