* Q4 EPS C$0.62 vs estimate C$0.72
* Revs C$5.9 bln vs C$5.9 bln
* Refining income falls 80 percent (Adds financial, production details, background)
CALGARY, Alberta, Feb 2 (Reuters) - Imperial Oil Ltd’s (IMO.TO) fourth-quarter profit fell a worse-than-expected 19 percent as weak refining margins weighed on the bottom line, Canada’s No. 2 oil producer and refiner said on Tuesday.
Imperial, majority-owned by U.S. oil major Exxon Mobil Corp (XOM.N), earned C$534 million ($504 million), or 62 Canadian cents a share, down from year-earlier C$660 million, or 76 Canadian cents a share.
Analysts, on average, had expected the company to earn 72 Canadian cents a share, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.
Revenue was C$5.9 billion, about flat with the fourth quarter of 2009.
Imperial, known for extensive heavy oil and oil sands operations as well as its national chain of Esso service stations, said results were hampered most by its refining unit, where net income tumbled 80 percent to C$52 million.
Imperial and its North American refining rivals have all been hit by shrinking profit margins due to slack demand for gasoline and diesel as well as rising crude oil prices.
But earnings from its exploration and production rose 46 percent to C$491 million, as oil prices recovered.
Oil production slipped by 20,000 barrels a day to 204,000 bpd and natural gas output rose 10 percent to 264 million cubic feet a day.
U.S. oil prices averaged $76.13 a barrel in the period, up 29 percent from the year before, and gas prices fell 23 percent to $4.93 per million British thermal units.
Meanwhile, prices for heavy oil have improved as declining supplies from Venezuela and Mexico and rising processing capacity among U.S. refiners have helped narrow the discount that gooey crude receives compared with lighter grades.
Imperial’s shares rose 43 Canadian cents to C$39.45 on the Toronto Stock Exchange, although it reported its results after the market closed. The stock is about flat with the level of a year ago.
The company lost its spot as biggest Canadian oil producer and refiner last year, when Suncor Energy Inc (SU.TO) bulked up with its C$22.7 billion takeover of Petro-Canada. Suncor also reported worse-than-forecast results on Tuesday.
$1=$1.06 Canadian Reporting by Jeffrey Jones; Editing by Gary Hill and Marguerita Choy