Canadian Natural trims spending, shares jump

Thu Aug 9, 2012 11:12am EDT
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CALGARY, Alberta (Reuters) - Canadian Natural Resources Ltd (CNQ.TO: Quote) has cut its spending budget by a tenth to cope with chronically low natural gas prices, while at the same time slightly boosting its outlook for overall production, sending its shares up 6 percent.

Canadian Natural, the country's largest independent oil explorer and producer, said on Thursday it will cut 2012 capital spending by C$680 million ($687 million) to C$6.7 billion, cutting back on already-skimpy natural gas plans and trimming spending on its oil sands mining project. It shifted some spending to higher-return heavy oil production projects.

The moves came as the company reported a 19 percent drop in second-quarter net income and 22 percent increase in overall production. Output a year earlier was reduced by a lengthy outage at its Horizon oil sands project in northern Alberta following a fire.

Canadian Natural shares were up C$1.76 at C$31.33 on the Toronto Stock Exchange. They had dropped more than 22 percent since the start of the year.

High production rates at Horizon, record heavy-oil output and higher-than-expected cash flow combined for an upbeat quarter, TD Securities analyst Menno Hulshof said.

Canadian Natural is "looking a lot like the old CNQ for the first time in a long time," Hulshof wrote in a note to clients. "Pricing discounts and Horizon reliability are obviously still a concern for many but at a minimum, this quarter should give the market a reason to start to believe in Horizon again."

Production at the site north of Fort McMurray, Alberta, averaged 115,823 barrels a day in the quarter, which is slightly above the plant's design capacity.

Company-wide output averaged 679,607 barrels of oil equivalent a day, up from 556,539 in the second quarter of 2011.

Net income fell to C$753 million, or 68 Canadian cents a share, from C$929 million, or 84 Canadian cents a share, a year earlier.   Continued...