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McMoran Loss Narrows, Stock Up - Update

McMoRan Exploration Co. (MMR) said Tuesday its net loss for the first quarter narrowed from last year, as lower amortization and other costs more than offset a decline in oil and natural gas sales.

Loss per share for the quarter was smaller than what analysts expected, while revenue topped expectations. McMoRan shares gained 5 percent on the New York Stock Exchange, following the news.

Results for the quarter were helped by a sharp decrease in depletion and amortization expenses at $41.9 million, compared to $86.7 million last year.

Meanwhile, revenue for the quarter took a hit with lower production and sales volume.

Production during the quarter averaged 156 million cubic feet per day, or MMcfe/d, compared to 195 MMcfe/d last year.

Sales volumes for the quarter totaled 8.8 billion cubic feet, or Bcf of gas, and 610,100 barrels of oil, compared to 11.7 Bcf of gas, and 686,700 barrels of oil in the prior year. Natural gas liquids sales were almost flat at 1.7 billion cubic feet, or Bcfe.

Average realizations for gas during the quarter dropped to $2.59 per thousand cubic feet, or Mcf, from $4.54 per Mcf last year. Oil realizations were higher at $112.70 per barrel, compared to $96.76 per barrel last year. Natural gas liquids averaged $8.96 per Mcfe, up from $8.02 per Mcfe.

New Orleans, Louisiana-based McMoRan reported first-quarter net loss to common shares of $4.9 million or $0.03 per share, compared to net loss of $27.6 million or $0.17 per share last year.

On average, 9 analysts polled by Thomson Reuters expected a loss of $0.10 per share for the quarter. Analysts' estimates typically exclude special items.

McMoran posted revenue of $110.6 million, compared to $137 million last year. Analysts expected revenue of $109.39 million.

Looking ahead, the company expects production to average about 135 MMcfe/d in 2012, which excludes potential production from Davy Jones well.

MMR is trading at $9.18, up $0.46 or 5.28%, on a volume of 1.5 million shares on the NYSE. In the past year, the stock ranged between $8.25 and $19.17.

by RTTNews Staff Writer

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