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CALGARY, Alberta (Reuters) - Suncor Energy Inc (SU.TO), Canada's largest oil and gas producer, said on Thursday third-quarter profit rose more than 5 percent on strong oil prices and higher production from its oil sands business and a rise in oil prices.
Suncor reported net income of C$1.29 billion ($1.28 billion), or 82 Canadian cents per share, up from C$1.22 billion, or 78 Canadian cents, in the third quarter of 2010.
Operating income, which excludes most one time items, nearly tripled to C$1.79 billion, or C$1.14 a share, from C$617 million, or 39 Canadian cents a share.
The operating result was well above the average analyst forecast for the measure of 77 Canadian cents, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.
Suncor exceeded estimates because of "contributions from the East Coast and Syria businesses, together with a modest tick up in the oil sands business," George Toriola, an analyst with UBS Securities Canada, wrote in a note to clients.
Suncor is the dominant producer in the Canadian oil sands sector, with other operations in the United States, North Sea, Syria and Libya.
It benefited from strong oil prices, as the West Texas Intermediate benchmark oil price rose 18 percent from the year before to $89.62 per barrel and European Brent prices rose 46 percent to $112.09.
Third-quarter oil sands production volumes rose 6.5 percent averaging a record 326,600 barrels per day.
Suncor's cash flow, a key indicator of its ability to pay for new projects, rose to C$2.72 billion, or C$1.73 per share, from C$1.630 billion, or C$1.04 per share, a year ago.
Upstream production fell 14 percent to 546,000 barrels of oil equivalent per day, as by maintenance issues at its Buzzard facility in the North Sea hurt production.
Suncor shares were up 2.9 percent at C$32.72 on the Toronto Stock Exchange.
Reporting by Scott Haggett and Maneesha Tiwari in Bangalore