February 15, 2012 / 11:34 AM / in 6 years

Cenovus profit soars; JV plan attracts foreign cos

(Reuters) - Cenovus Energy Inc (CVE.TO), Canada’s No. 2 independent oil producer, said its quarterly profit more than tripled, helped by an expansion of development area at its Christina Lake operations in northern Alberta and higher oil prices.

Brian Ferguson president and CEO of Cenovus Energy addresses shareholders at the company's annual general meeting in Calgary, Alberta, April 27, 2011. REUTERS/Todd Korol

The company, known for its Canadian oil sands production and U.S. refining joint ventures with ConocoPhillips (COP.N), also said it was considering recent interest shown by international parties to jointly develop its Alberta oil sands assets.

“We received significant interest in this opportunity from around the world,” Chief Executive Brian Ferguson said in a statement on Wednesday.

In December, Cenovus said it was looking for a partner for its Telephone Lake oil sands property where it plans to develop a 90,000 barrel-a-day thermal oil sands project, tapping reserves of more than 1.3 billion barrels.

The company kept its 2012 capital spending forecast of $3.1 billion to $3.4 billion, but said it may consider reducing investment in natural gas projects if prices for the fuel did not recover.

Fourth-quarter profit rose to C$266 million ($265.80 million), or 35 Canadian cents a share, from C$78 million, or 10 Canadian cents a share, a year ago. Excluding unusual items, the company earned 44 Canadian cents a share.

Cash flow, a glimpse into the company’s ability to fund operations, rose about 32 percent to C$851 million, or C$1.12 a share, from C$645 million, or 85 Canadian cents a share.

Production rose about 11 percent to average 144,273 barrels a day.

The company also said it will increase its first-quarter dividend by 10 percent.

Cenovus shares, which have gained about 15 percent in value in the last three months, closed at C$38.60 on Tuesday on the Toronto Stock Exchange.

($1 = 1.0008 Canadian dollars)

Reporting by Scott Haggett in Calgary and Shounak Dasgupta in Bangalore; Editing by Joyjeet Das

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