Cenovus Mulling Oil-Sands Partnerships, CEO Says

Cenovus Energy Inc., Canada’s fifth-largest energy company, is considering partnerships to speed development of its oil-sands projects, Chief Executive Officer Brian Ferguson said.

Cenovus has been approached by “several interested parties,” Ferguson said on an investor conference call today. The company, which has undeveloped oil-sands assets in the Alberta’s Athabasca region, reported about 1.2 billion barrels of proved bitumen reserves at the end of last year.

“We have a small team focused on strategic initiatives and our target is to be able to complete one transaction in 2011,” Ferguson said. He declined to name possible partners or give a potential transaction size.

In 2010, China Petrochemical Corp. paid $4.65 billion to buy a stake in Syncrude Canada Ltd. and Total SA paid $1.74 billion to buy into Suncor Energy Inc.’s oil-sands developments. Oilsands Quest Inc. said last month it’s in discussions with potential partners to develop assets in Alberta and Saskatchewan.

Cenovus, based in Calgary, said today that fourth-quarter profit fell 17 percent to C$140 million from C$169 million a year earlier. The company spent C$706 million on capital investment in the quarter, a 39 percent increase.