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May 7 (Reuters) - Husky Energy Inc, Canada's No.3 integrated oil company, reported a bigger-than-expected 24 percent rise in first-quarter profit, helped by stronger prices for its crude oil, natural gas liquids and bitumen.
The company, controlled by Hong Kong billionaire Li Ka-shing, said average realized prices in the first quarter ended March 31 rose to $87.32 per barrel from $68.32 a year earlier.
Cash flow, a measure of its ability to pay for new projects, jumped 20 percent to C$1.5 billion ($1.4 billion).
Husky produces oil and natural gas in Canada and southeast Asia. It owns all or part of four refineries in North America and operates a heavy oil upgrader in Lloydminster, Saskatchewan.
Husky began operations at its 40-percent owned Liwan natural gas project off the coast of southern China at the end of March and said on Wednesday it started selling gas from the field towards the end of April.
The company's first-quarter net income rose to C$662 million, or 66 Canadian cents per share, from C$535 million, or 54 Canadian cents.
Excluding one-time items, the company earned 73 Canadian cents per share, beating analysts' average estimate of 62 Canadian cents per share, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S. ($1 = 1.0893 Canadian Dollars) (Reporting by Sayantani Ghosh in Bangalore and Scott Haggett in Calgary; Editing by Savio D'Souza)