POLITICS
10/05/2011 03:09 EDT | Updated 12/05/2011 05:12 EST

Suncor says it's reviewing new Canadian sanctions against Syrian government

CALGARY - Suncor Energy Inc. said Wednesday it was reviewing new sanctions Ottawa is imposing on Syria as shares in the oilsands-dominated company soared on the back of rebounding crude oil prices.

In a brief emailed statement, spokesman Dany Laferriere did not elaborate on what effect the sanctions might have on Suncor's operations in the Mideast country or how it would respond.

In an update posted online last week, Suncor said that it was in compliance with all relevant sanctions on Syria and intended to follow any future ones as well.

"We appreciate how difficult it must be for governments to determine how to signal their concerns with ongoing events in Syria while also doing their best not to make life harder on the country’s citizens," the company said.

The expanded sanctions prohibit the purchase or transportation of petroleum products and any new investment in Syria's oil sector and also add 27 new individuals and 12 new entities to Ottawa's sanctions list.

Suncor (TSX:SU), Canada's largest energy company, runs the Ebla natural gas project in the war-torn country alongside Syria's General Petroleum Corp.

Ebla — far from any major population centres — has continued to operate throughout the government crackdown on pro-democracy protesters.

Suncor inherited its Syrian operations through its merger with Petro-Canada in 2009, in addition to oil assets in Libya.

Civil war in Libya forced Suncor to pull its employees out of the North African country in February. It has not said when its operations there may resume, although a key condition — the ouster of former ruler Moammar Gadhafi this summer — has been met.

Investors haven't been too concerned about troubles with Suncor's international operations, said John Stephenson, portfolio manager with First Asset Investment Management.

"Those are relatively modest in terms of their contribution to the whole company," he said.

Rather, investors are focused on the biggest part of Suncor's portfolio: the oilsands.

Suncor shares gained $2.07, or eight per cent, to $27.50 on the Toronto Stock Exchange on Wednesday as crude oil prices rebounded from 12 month lows. Benchmark crude jumped $4.01, or 5.3 per cent, to finish at $79.68 per barrel in New York.

Other oil-weighted names — Nexen Inc. (TSX:NXY), Canadian Oil Sands Corp. (TSX:COS), Cenovus Energy Inc. (TSX:CVE) and Canadian Natural Resources Ltd. (TSX:CNQ) — also got a lift, but not to the same extent as Suncor.

The reason Suncor likely outpaced its peers Wednesday is the fact that it had previously been such a "laggard" due to operational upsets and other issues, said Stephenson.

"I think it's really a snap-back from an oversold position," he said.