Occidental Petroleum Corp. generated its highest reported earnings ever in the second quarter on robust energy prices and record oil and natural gas production. The Los Angeles-based producer earned $581 million ($1.48/share), compared with $374 million (98 cents/share) in 2Q2003. Production averaged 574,000 boe/d in the quarter, 6% higher than a year ago.

CEO Ray R. Irani noted that the company used the strong cash flow from operations in the quarter to pay off $360 million in obligations, “thereby bringing the total reduction in debt-like obligations since the beginning of the year to more than $1 billion.”

The company’s oil and gas segment and core earnings were $814 million, compared with $637 million a year ago. The improvement in earnings reflected approximately $294 million from higher worldwide crude oil and gas prices and increased sales volumes; partially offset by higher operating expenses. The second quarter of 2003 also included $14 million in after-tax gains on asset sales.

Occidental also announced that Dale Laurance, its president and global head of energy exploration and production, will retire at the end of this year after 21 years, citing health reasons. Irani will assume the president’s title Jan. 1. John Morgan, responsible for worldwide production and engineering operations, will immediately succeed Laurance as president of Occidental Oil & Gas, the company’s flagship oil and gas exploration and production unit. In addition, CFO Stephen Chazen was promoted to senior executive vice president, and he will take on oversight of chemicals operations.

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