October 30, 2008 / 6:17 PM / 9 years ago

UPDATE 1-Imperial profit surges on higher oil, gas prices

CALGARY, Alberta, Oct 30 (Reuters) - Imperial Oil Ltd’s IMO.TO third-quarter profit surged 70 percent as crude prices hit records before the world financial crisis led to a steep drop, Canada’s largest oil producer and refiner said on Thursday.

Imperial, which is majority owned by U.S. oil major Exxon Mobil Corp XOM.N, earned a company-high C$1.4 billion ($1.1 billion), or C$1.57 a share, in the quarter, up from year-earlier C$816 million, or 88 Canadian cents a share.

It had been expected to earn C$1.22 a share, according to a Reuters Estimates survey of analysts’ forecasts.

Revenue rose 51 percent to C$9.5 billion from C$6.3 billion.

The industry has been pumping out strong results for the quarter after oil prices averaged $118.22 a barrel, up 57 percent for a year earlier, and Canadian natural gas averaged C$7.35 a gigajoule, up 49 percent.

But investors, facing big stock-price losses, are now focused on future prospects as the subsequent drop in oil prices and the credit crunch point to much smaller 2009 budgets.

Imperial is best known for its dominant position in oil sands production and it also runs Canada’s largest refining and marketing network. Among the big-ticket projects it plans are the C$16.2 billion Mackenzie Gas Project and C$8 billion Kearl oil sands development.

It sold its conventional oil for an average C$114.58 a barrel in the quarter, up 51 percent from last year, and its gas fetched C$9.20 per thousand cubic feet, up 61 percent.

The financial results improved despite lower oil and natural gas production in the quarter, Imperial said.

Its energy production division earned a record C$999 million, C$392 million above the same period in 2007. Refining and marketing earnings jumped to C$270 million from C$191 million, due to stronger profit margins at its refineries, it said.

The company’s shares were up 88 Canadian cents at C$40.88 on the Toronto Stock Exchange on Thursday afternoon. Exxon Mobil owns 69.6 percent of Imperial.

$1=$1.22 Canadian Reporting by Jeffrey Jones; Editing by Peter Galloway

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