* Raises dividend 54 pct
* Plans C$2 bln share repurchase
* Q1 operating earnings C$0.90 vs C$0.75 expected
* Shares rise 2.7 pct
CALGARY, Alberta, April 30 (Reuters) - Shares of Suncor Energy Inc rose 2.7 percent in early trading on Tuesday as the company increased its dividend 54 percent, said it would buy back C$2 billion ($1.97 billion) of its own shares and after it reported first-quarter earnings that surpassed expectations.
Suncor’s shares rose 80 Canadian cents to C$30.44 on the Toronto Stock Exchange as the company took steps to increase returns to shareholders. The shares have fallen 9.2 percent over the past 12 months.
Suncor, Canada’s largest oil and gas producer, is being pressed by investors to boost its flagging shares and increase a dividend that many considered to be miserly.
Suncor said late on Monday it would raise its quarterly dividend to 20 Canadian cents per share from 13 cents and launch its repurchase plan, which will run from May 2 until September 19.
The dividend increase was “well above the 30 to 40 percent increase we were expecting as it tries to appease shareholders who have been aggressively calling for the company to accelerate returning some of its (free cash flow) generation to shareholders,” Andrew Potter, an analyst with CIBC World Markets, wrote in a research note.
It also said first-quarter operating profit was C$1.37 billion, or C$0.90 per share, compared with C$1.318 billion, or C$0.84 per share, in the year-prior period.
The results beat the average analyst forecasts of 75 Canadian cents per share, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.
$1 = $1.01 Canadian Reporting by Scott Haggett; Editing by Maureen Bavdek