CALGARY, Alberta, May 8 (Reuters) - Canadian Natural Resources Ltd, the country's largest independent oil and gas producer, said on Thursday its first-quarter profit rose nearly three-fold on higher oil and natural gas prices as it boosted capital spending to develop newly acquired properties.
The company said net income was C$622 million ($572.5 million), or 57 Canadian cents per share, up from C$213 million, or 19 Canadian cents, in the first quarter of 2013.
Adjusted profit, which excludes most one-time items, more than doubled to C$921 million, or 85 Canadian cents per share, from C$401 million, or 37 Canadian cents. Analysts, on average, expected the company to post an operating profit of 79 Canadian cents per share, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.
Canadian Natural is one of Canada's largest conventional oil producers and a major operator in the country's oil sands. It also operates offshore of west Africa.
The company made one of its largest acquisitions in years earlier this year, buying Devon Energy Corp's Canadian conventional properties for C$3.13 billion. Canadian Natural said it would boost its capital spending budget by C$425 million to exploit its new lands while its 2014 oil production target was raised by 3 percent, or 15,000 barrels per day, while it will add 360 million cubic feet per day of gas production this year.
The company's cash flow, a key indicator of its ability to pay for new projects and drilling, rose 36 percent to C$2.15 billion, or C$1.97 per share.
Production was 0.6 percent higher than the year-prior quarter at 684,647 barrels of oil equivalent per day. It received an average price of C$79.68 per barrel for its oil and natural gas liquids in the quarter, 19 percent above year earlier levels. Its average natural gas price rose 62 percent to C$5.69 per thousand cubic feet.
Canadian Natural shares closed at C$43.00 on the Toronto Stock Exchange on Thursday. The shares have risen 44 percent over the past 12 months. ($1 = 1.0866 Canadian Dollars) (Reporting by Scott Haggett; Editing by Chris Reese)