(Reuters) - Suncor Energy Inc, Canada's largest oil and gas company, reported a loss on Wednesday as oil prices tumbled by half and a foreign exchange loss outweighed higher production.
The company's net loss was C$341 million, or 24 Canadian cents per share, compared with a profit of C$1.49 billion, or C$1.01 per share, in the first quarter of 2014.
Operating earnings, which exclude one-time items like the C$940 million ($781.8 million) foreign exchange loss on the value of the company's U.S.-dollar denominated debt, fell sharply to C$175 million, or 12 Canadian cents per share, from C$1.793 billion, or C$1.22 per share, in the year-ago period.
The adjusted result lagged the average analyst estimate of 14 Canadian cents per share, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.
Suncor, like its peers, has already slashed jobs and spending to cope with the sharp decline in the oil price over the past year. The company, the dominant producer in Canada's oil sands, said efforts remain on track to cut C$1 billion from its 2015 capital budget while still moving ahead with key growth projects.
Output from Suncor's northern Alberta operations rose 13 percent to 440,400 barrels per day, mainly due to less maintenance activity in the quarter.
Cash costs for its oil sands operations fell to C$28.40 per barrel from C$35.60 in the year-prior quarter, due to the higher production, lower natural gas prices and the company's cost cutting initiatives.
Overall, Suncor produced a total 602,400 barrels of oil equivalent per day (boepd), up 10.5 percent from 545,300 boepd in the fourth quarter of 2014.
Along with its Alberta tar sands projects, Suncor produces oil off Canada's east coast, in the North Sea and elsewhere. It also owns refineries in Canada and the United States.
The company's cash flow, an indicator of its ability to pay for new projects, fell 49 percent to C$1.48 billion and it said earlier this month that it expected second-quarter production of 598,000 boepd.
Reporting by Julie Gordon in Vancouver and Scott Haggett in Calgary; Editing by Ken Wills and Muralikumar Anantharaman