(New throughout, adds CEO comment from earnings call)
By Nia Williams
CALGARY, Alberta, May 5 (Reuters) - Canadian oil and gas producer Husky Energy Inc reported a first-quarter profit on Friday that slightly beat analyst forecasts, but said it would wait before deciding whether to reinstate its dividend given the instability in the oil market.
Calgary-based Husky scrapped its dividend in January 2016 as benchmark U.S. crude plummeted to less than $30 a barrel on concerns about global oversupply. Prices started to rise late last year but have been volatile in recent weeks, hitting a five-month low of $43.76 on Friday.
“The market looks fairly uncertain still and what we would like to do is get another quarter under our belt so we are confident that a full year’s results will support a sustainable dividend for the long haul,” Husky Chief Executive Officer Rob Peabody said on the company’s first-quarter earnings call.
Husky’s board of directors will meet to evaluate the dividend before the end of July, he added.
The company, controlled by the Hong Kong billionaire Li Ka-Shing, reported a quarterly profit on Friday that edged past analysts’ estimates, helped by higher oil prices.
Husky posted a profit of C$71 million ($52 million), or 6 Canadian cents per share, for the first quarter ended March 31, compared with a loss of C$458 million, or 47 Canadian cents per share, a year earlier.
Excluding items, Husky earned 6 Canadian cents per share, narrowly beating average analysts’ estimate of 5 Canadian cents per share, according to Thomson Reuters data.
Husky realized C$41.58 per barrel of oil equivalent (boe) in the first quarter, up from C$25.02 per boe a year earlier.
The higher prices helped make up for a dip in production, which fell 2.1 percent to an average of 334,000 boe per day.
Average realized U.S. refining margins at Husky, which owns one refinery in Ohio and holds a 50 percent joint venture partnership on another with BP Plc, more than doubled to C$8.33 per barrel in the quarter.
The two companies also share ownership of the Sunrise oil sands project in northern Alberta. The plant has been ramping up to full production capacity at a slower rate than initially expected, but Husky said volumes are currently 40,000 barrels per day, in line with the most recent forecasts.
Husky shares were last up 1.8 percent on the Toronto Stock Exchange at $15.86. ($1 = 1.3770 Canadian dollars) (Additional reporting by Muvija.M in Bengaluru; Editing by Arun Koyyur and David Gregorio)