Exxon has been criticized for failing to boost production, but the CEO says that new projects now in the works will produce profits and lift the business.
Exxon Mobil Corp. said Thursday that fourth-quarter net income was $8.35 billion, or $1.91 per share, matching Wall Street's forecast. That compares with profit of $9.95 billion, or $2.20 per share, a year earlier.
Revenue fell 3.3 per cent to $110.86 billion, below the $114.51 billion that analysts were expecting, according to a FactSet survey.
Production of oil and gas dropped 1.8 per cent.
In a statement, Chairman and CEO Rex Tillerson said disciplined investing and new projects were putting the company in position for sustained big profits.
"Over the next two years, ExxonMobil will start up numerous major projects delivering profitable new supplies of oil and natural gas while strengthening our refining and chemicals businesses," he said.
The Irving, Texas-based company spent $26 billion last year on dividends and buybacks that reduced the number of shares — moves designed to please shareholders.
As oil prices were stabilizing, Exxon's shares gained nearly 15 per cent during 2013, about on par with Chevron Corp. but trailing the broader indexes, including the Dow Jones industrial average.
In trading before Thursday's opening bell, Exxon shares were down $1.18 to $93.93.
Exxon is the world's biggest publicly traded oil company. It became the largest producer of U.S. natural gas with the 2010 acquisition of XTO Energy, a deal that has failed to produce immediate results due to stubbornly low gas prices amid a surge in drilling.
In the fourth quarter, Exxon's earnings from oil and gas production in the U.S. fell 26 per cent to $1.19 billion; outside the U.S. — easily the company's most profitable business — earnings dipped 9 per cent to $5.6 billion.
The sharpest decline came in refining and selling petroleum products, where earnings plunged 48 per cent to $916 million on weaker refining margins.
Exxon said it paid $23.11 billion in income, sales and other taxes, a decrease of 4.2 per cent from the fourth quarter of 2012.