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XTO makes $465 million first-quarter profit

XTO got off to what Chairman Bob Simpson said he expects to be a record year with its first-quarter earnings of $465 million, in line with Wall Street expectations, on sharply higher revenues of nearly $1.7 billion.

The Fort Worth-based independent producer also said Wednesday that it is raising its 2008 target for production growth to 23 percent, up from 20 percent. First-quarter production was up 32 percent to the equivalent of 2.1 billion cubic feet of natural gas a day.

XTO said its production in the Barnett Shale hit 620 million cubic feet a day, while drilling in the Woodford Shale in Oklahoma and the Fayetteville Shale in Arkansas yielded several new wells with initial daily production rates of 2 million to 3 million cubic feet.

XTO also said it raised its budget for drilling and other property development by 15 percent to $3 billion for the year. It was running 84 drilling rigs as of the end of the quarter.

The average selling price for the company’s natural gas in the quarter was $7.70 per 1,000 cubic feet, up 4 percent from a year ago. Crude oil, which accounts for about 15 percent of XTO’s production, sold for an average $80.74 a barrel, up 21 percent.

JIM FUQUAY, 817-390-7552