Canadian Natural Profit Falls as Horizon Maintenance Cuts Output

Canadian Natural Resources Ltd., the nation’s largest producer of heavy crude, reported a 37 percent decline in second-quarter profit as maintenance work reduced output from an oil-sands project.

Net income fell to C$476 million ($457 million), or 44 cents a share, from C$753 million, or 68 cents, a year earlier, the Calgary-based company said today in a statement. Excluding one-time items, per-share profit was 42 cents, missing the 44-cent average estimate of 16 analysts surveyed by Bloomberg.

Canadian Natural said in May it would produce less crude in the second quarter because of maintenance at the Horizon oil-sands plant following unplanned halts in the past two years. The company is among energy stocks that have gained after Canadian oil prices rose in the quarter, narrowing the gap with West Texas Intermediate, a U.S. benchmark.

“Horizon performance continues to be a focus,” Phil Skolnick, an analyst at Canaccord Genuity Corp. in New York, said in a July 22 note to clients. The maintenance work lasted five days longer than expected, which may mean the project’s output fell below company forecasts for the quarter, he wrote.

Canadian Natural produced the equivalent of 623,315 barrels of oil a day in the period, down from 679,607 barrels a year earlier.

Spot prices for Western Canada Select rose 5.4 percent from a year earlier to average $77.48 a barrel, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. The price difference between the Canadian heavy crude and the U.S. oil benchmark narrowed 15 percent to $16.75 a barrel during the quarter.

The earnings were released before the start of regular trading on North American markets. The shares, which have gained 10 percent this year, fell 1.3 percent to C$31.61 yesterday in Toronto. The company has 17 buy, five hold and two sell ratings from analysts. It’s Canada’s biggest heavy-oil producer according to its website.

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