* Lost C$0.09 a share in quarter; earned C$0.46/shr year-ago
* Operating loss was C$538,000 in fourth quarter
* Cash flow was C$0.27 a share, vs $0.61 a share
* Shares rise 1.3 pct
CALGARY, Alberta, Jan 31 (Reuters) - Oil sands producer MEG Energy Corp reported a fourth-quarter loss on Thursday due to charges and low Canadian oil prices, even as production rose to a record.
MEG lost a net C$18.7 million ($18.7 million), or 9 Canadian cents a share, on a C$21.1 million foreign exchange loss. That compares to a profit of C$91.1 million, or 46 Canadian cents, including a C$33.7 million foreign exchange gain, in the fourth quarter of 2011.
Excluding the one-time item, the company lost C$538,000, less than one cent a share, in the fourth quarter of 2012, compared to a profit of C$57.8 million, or 29 Canadian cents, in the same quarter of 2011.
The loss came as inadequate pipeline capacity and refinery maintenance dragged down prices for heavy crude from the oil sands. The price for Canada’s heavy oil benchmark, Western Canada Select, averaged $59.90 per barrel in the fourth quarter, a drop of 25 percent from a year earlier.
Still, analysts said MEG’s cash flow - a measure of the company’s ability to pay for an ambitious growth plan - was better than expected as production rose and it kept a lid on spending.
“In light of the volatile environment, MEG continues to deliver very strong performance in terms of managing costs,” Andrew Potter, an analyst at CIBC World Markets, wrote in a research note.
MEG’s cash flow fell by more than half to C$56.1 million, or 27 Canadian cents a share, from C$121.6 million, or 61 Canadian cents, a year earlier. Some analysts had expected it to have dropped to as low as 22 Canadian cents a share.
Production from the company’s thermal oil sands project in northern Alberta grew 7.5 percent to 32,292 barrels per day in the fourth quarter, as it ramped up towards a targeted output of 80,000 bpd by 2015. That was the company’s best output in terms of quarterly volume to date.
MEG said its proved and probable reserves were assessed at 2.6 billion barrels at year-end, up by 500 million barrels from its previous estimate.
The company’s shares were up 46 Canadian cents at C$34.72 in afternoon trading on the Toronto Stock Exchange.