UPDATE 2-Canadian Natural keeps 2015 spin-off plan as 4th-qtr profit jumps

Thu Mar 5, 2015 1:16pm EST
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CALGARY, Alberta, March 5 (Reuters) - Canadian Natural Resources Ltd, the country's No. 2 oil and gas producer, said on Thursday it expects to spin off its Western Canada royalty lands this year as it reported unexpectedly strong fourth-quarter results and boosted its dividend.

The company still intends to sell the properties that it leases to other oil companies in 2015, though the timing was still not certain.

"We target this ... in 2015 and the timing of the monetization will be somewhat dependent on the commodity price outlook," Steve Laut, the company's president, said on a conference call.

Canadian Natural said the properties contributed about C$186 million ($148.9 million) in revenues in 2014.

In January, the company slashed its 2015 capital budget by 28 percent and postponed a heavy oil project to weather oil prices that have dropped more than 50 percent since June. It has trimmed the budget by another C$150 million to C$6.04 billion, it said on Thursday, as it improved operations at its 133,000-barrel-per-day Horizon oil sands plant in Alberta, cutting the need for protracted maintenance.

Canadian Natural also said its management committee agreed to a 10 percent salary cut, effective March 1, and the board agreed to cut its annual cash retainer by 10 percent.

Canadian Natural produced 860,920 barrels of oil equivalent per day (boepd) in the fourth quarter, up 27 percent from a year earlier.

Net earnings nearly tripled to C$1.20 billion, or C$1.09 Canadian cents per share, in the quarter.   Continued...