(Corrects figure for upstream earnings in eighth paragraph to C$526 million from C$266 million.)
* Q4 EPS C$0.94 vs year-earlier C$0.62
* Analysts had forecast Q4 EPS of C$0.57
* Q4 revenue up nearly 20 pct at C$6.94 bln
* Downstream profits quadruple
* Shares rise 2.3 pct (Recasts, adds details and share price. Changes dateline, previous TORONTO)
CALGARY, Alberta, Jan 31 (Reuters) - Imperial Oil (IMO.TO) said on Monday its quarterly profit rose by half on a rebound in its refining business, the biggest in Canada, and higher crude oil production and prices.
The company, Canada’s No. 2 integrated producer, said net income in the fourth quarter rose to C$799 million ($799 million), or 94 Canadian cents a share, up from a year-earlier profit of C$534 million, or 62 Canadian cents a share.
“The 50 percent earnings increase resulted primarily from improved downstream margins, higher crude oil commodity prices and improved refinery operations,” Bruce March, the company’s chief executive, said in a statement.
The result was well ahead of the 57 Canadian cents per share profit, including items, it was expected to post according to the average estimate among analysts polled by Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.
Imperial shares were up C$1.01 at C$43.71 at midmorning on the Toronto Stock Exchange.
Imperial, nearly 70 percent owned by Exxon Mobil Corp (XOM.N), said it had record-high fuel sales at its Esso-branded service stations in the quarter.
Earnings from its downstream refining and marketing operations rose to C$266 million from C$52 million on the higher demand and as the profit from turning crude oil into gasoline and other products rose.
Higher crude oil production and prices also contributed. Earnings from Imperial’s upstream operations rose 7 percent to C$526 million on higher output from its Cold Lake oil sands project in northeastern Alberta.
However, space restrictions on Enbridge Inc’s (ENB.TO) pipeline network following two ruptures earlier in the year cost the company C$35 million. As well, a rising Canadian dollar, lower output from its 25 percent share in the Syncrude Canada oil sands project, and higher royalty payments also reduced upstream earnings by C$90 million.
Imperial also said construction at its C$8 billion Kearl oil sands project is more than half done and expects the mine to begin producing 110,000 barrels of tar-like bitumen a day by late 2012.
The company said cash flow rose 8.3 percent to C$1 billion.
Imperial’s net crude oil and natural gas liquids production rose 4.6 percent to 207,000 barrels per day, while natural gas output fell 4.6 percent to 253 million cubic feet per day.
Sales of refined products rose 14 percent to 473,000 barrels per day.
Imperial said quarterly revenue rose nearly 20 percent to C$6.94 billion.
$1=$1.00 Canadian Reporting by Scott Haggett and Euan Rocha; editing by Peter Galloway