CALGARY - Suncor Energy Inc. (TSX:SU) has hiked its dividend by 15 per cent to 23 cents per share — nine months after a 54-per-cent bump its quarterly payout.
Its board of directors has also approved additional share buybacks of up to $1 billion, subject to regulatory approval.
Canada's largest energy company made the announcement as it reported quarterly operating earnings that were slightly lower year-over-year, but missed analyst estimates.
Suncor's operating earnings during the last three months of 2013 were $973 million, down from $988 million during the same 2012 period.
The operating earnings of 66 cents per share missed the 78 cents per share analysts surveyed by Thomson Reuters had been expecting.
Net earnings, which account for one-time items, were $443 million, or 30 cents per share, compared to a loss of $574 million, or 38 cents per share, during the fourth quarter of 2012, when Suncor booked a $1.49-billion charge on its scrapped Voyageur oilsands upgrader.
"For the tenth consecutive quarter we generated over $2.2 billion in cash flow from operations, despite a challenging western Canadian crude price environment," said CEO Steve Williams.
The price Suncor was able to get for its landlocked crude took a hit, as it churned out more bitumen than it was able to sell at world prices.
But that problem should be rectified in 2014, Suncor said, as it has a plan in place to capture global pricing for nearly all of its output.
Suncor is expecting to ship 30,000 barrels per day by rail to its Montreal refinery during the first quarter of 2014. It has also begun shipping 50,000 barrels per day of crude to the lucrative Gulf Coast refining market along the southern leg of TransCanada Corp.'s (TSX:TRP) Keystone XL pipeline, which started up on Jan. 22.
A final environmental report into the northern, cross-border portion of Keystone XL was published on Friday, but it's not clear when the Obama administration will make a long-awaited decision on whether to let the controversial line go ahead.
Production during the fourth quarter of 2013 was 558,100 barrels per day, compared to 556,500 boe/d a year earlier. Output in its core oilsands business averaged 409,600 boe/d, compared to 342,800 boe/d.
Suncor has reduced its 2014 output targets due to political unrest in Libya. It is now expecting a range of 525,000 to 570,000 barrels of oil equivalent per day company-wide, down from 565,000 to 610,000 boe/d.
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