Canadian Natural Profit Triples on Record Oil Production

Canadian Natural Resources Ltd., the nation’s largest producer of heavy oil, said third-quarter profit more than tripled as it pumped record amounts of crude.

Net income rose to C$1.17 billion ($1.12 billion), or C$1.07 a share, from C$360 million, or 33 cents, a year earlier, the Calgary-based company said today in a statement. Excluding hedging losses and gains from property sales and currency exchanges, per-share profit was 93 cents, exceeding the average of 15 analysts’ estimates compiled by Bloomberg.

Canadian Natural said it produced about 509,000 barrels of oil and natural gas liquids a day in the quarter amid “robust” pricing. It forecast a 7 percent rise in total output next year and boosted 2014 capital spending to C$7.7 billion. The company also increased its quarterly dividend 60 percent, to 20 cents a share.

The 2014 outlook has “higher-than-expected production and capital spending flexibility,” Greg Pardy, an analyst at RBC Capital Markets in Toronto, wrote in a note today.

Canadian Natural rose 0.37 percent to C$32.61 at the close in Toronto, compared with a 1.1 percent decline in the S&P/TSX Energy Index. The stock has 17 buy, four hold and two sell recommendations from analysts.

Sales rose 32 percent in the third quarter to C$4.66 billion, from C$3.54 billion a year ago. An expansion of the company’s Horizon oil-sands project is 30 percent complete, with costs currently 10 percent below estimates.

Primrose Leak

Spot prices for Western Canadian Select, the nation’s heavy-oil grade, advanced 8.3 percent from a year earlier to average $83.10 a barrel in the quarter, according to figures compiled by Bloomberg.

Canadian Natural continues to clean up a bitumen leak at its Primrose oil-sands site in Alberta, discovered in May. Work at three of the four locations is “essentially complete” and the last should be done next year, the company said.

Canadian Natural expects to complete an investigation into the cause by the end of the year or early 2014, President Steve Laut said on a conference call today. The company, which injects steam underground to heat the bitumen and allow it flow out of the reservoir, believes faulty old wellbores allowed the bitumen to escape to the surface, he said. It’s checking other wells and making repairs.

The leak is a “totally solvable” technical issue, he said. Canadian Natural has modified its strategy and expects regulatory approval to continue steam injections in the first quarter.

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