Murphy Oil Corp. posted a big turnaround in its fourth quarter earnings as the El Dorado-based oil and gas firm prepares to divide its upstream and downstream operations.

In the fourth quarter, Murphy Oil announced net income of $158.7 million compared to a net loss of $113.9 million in the previous year’s fourth quarter. The quarter would have been stronger but impairment charges of $261 million related to oil production operations in the Republic of the Congo and an ethanol production plant in Hereford, Texas, held earnings back.

For the full year, Murphy Oil posted net income of $970.9 million versus $872.7 million in 2011.

Murphy Oil announced in 2012 that it would spin-off its retail operations, known as downstream business, to become a pure-play oil and gas exploration firm. The spin-off company, Murphy Oil USA, is expected to launch in 2013.

“The just completed 2012 was an important year for our company,” said CEO Steven A. Cossé. “The U.S. retail business executed a new contract with Walmart, which will provide growth opportunities for this company for the next several years. In the oil and gas business, once again our reserves replacement significantly exceeded our oil and gas production volumes.”

Murphy Oil shares (NYSE :MUR) closed trading on Wednesday at $62.84. The company’s stock has traded between $43.29 and $65.60 per share during the last year.

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