Crescent Point hit by rise in costs

(Reuters) - Crescent Point Energy Corp CPG.TO posted a marginally bigger-than-expected loss on Thursday, a 5-percent rise in operating costs and sharply higher investment spending running contrary to efforts across the Canadian oil sector to reduce outlays.

Shares in the oil and gas producer fell nearly 7 percent in response to its fourth quarter results, with a 2-percent fall in global crude prices amplifying the negative mood.

While other Canadian producers have been seeking ways to reduce costs that have squeezed margins over the past three years, Crescent Point’s operating expenses rose 5.4 percent to C$12.53 per barrel of oil equivalent in the fourth quarter.

Investment spending, which does not have an impact on the company’s bottom line, rose nearly 17 percent to C$479.7 million.

“In a market where a small negative trumps numerous operational positives, investors might sell the stock on the capex outspend vs development guidance,” AltaCorp Capital analysts wrote in a note.

Other initial analyst notes on the results also pointed to higher costs as the chief take-away from an otherwise mixed bag of results.

“While the stock continues to clearly trade at a discount to peers ... the market is looking for a more significant strategic catalyst to justify narrowing the valuation gap,” said Desjardins Capital Markets analyst Kristopher Zack.

Crescent Point has been selling non-core assets to fund its capital spending program and pay down debt, while boosting production by focusing on operations in Southwest Saskatchewan and the Williston and Uinta basins in the United States.

“The company should be more aggressive in its disposition program as removal of non-core/lower growth assets will allow for the higher quality growth assets to shine through,” Eight Capital analysts said in a note.

Crescent Point posted an 8.4 percent jump in fourth-quarter production, while higher average realized prices helped the company post a smaller loss from the year-ago period.

Compared to a year earlier, the company’s net loss narrowed to C$56.4 million ($43.9 million) or 10 Canadian cents per share, from C$510.6 million or 94 Canadian cents per share. The fourth quarter of 2016 included a one-time loss on derivatives of C$138.7 million.

Analysts on average had expected a fourth quarter loss of 9 Canadian cents, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

Reporting by Anirban Paul in Bengaluru; Editing by Sai Sachin Ravikumar