UPDATE 1-Encana operating profit falls on hedging losses

Tue Apr 23, 2013 7:24am EDT
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* Plans to complete search for next CEO by end of June

* First-qtr operating EPS $0.29 vs $0.33 year earlier

* Cash flow falls 43 pct

April 23 (Reuters) - EnCana Corp, Canada's No.1 natural gas producer, reported a 25 percent fall in first-quarter operating profit due to hedging losses.

Encana's net operating income, which excludes most one-time items, fell to $179 million, or 24 cents per share, in the first quarter, from $240 million, or 33 cents per share, a year earlier.

"We expect the cost reduction efforts we've made at the beginning of this year to have an impact on our financial results during the second half of the year," said interim CEO Clayton Woitas.

EnCana, which continues to focus on the development of its oil and liquids-rich natural gas plays, said it plans to complete the search for the next chief executive by the end of June.

Randy Eresman, who was with Encana for 35 years, retired unexpectedly in early January. Eresman faced criticism from investors because of poor share price performance and a U.S. Department of Justice probe into whether the company illegally colluded with Chesapeake Energy Corp to lower the price of Michigan exploration lands.

The company reported a first-quarter net loss of $431 million, compared with a profit of $12 million a year earlier.   Continued...