06/19/2015 06:27 EDT | Updated 06/19/2016 05:59 EDT

Cenovus confirms talks about potential sale of assets, silent on buyer's identity

CALGARY - Cenovus Energy Inc. (TSX:CVE) confirmed Friday that it's in talks about the potential sale of royalty lands but provided no details of the other party's identity or the estimated value of the deal.

The announcement follows a Reuters news report that the Calgary-based company was holding exclusive talks with the Ontario Teachers Pension Plan about a deal that sources said could be worth between $2.5 bilion and $3 billion.

Cenovus said before markets opened Friday that it's making progress on a previously announced plan to find ways to maximize the value of its lands but it also said there is no assurance that a deal will be reached.

"Until such time as it is appropriate to make a public announcement about a transaction, Cenovus does not intend to comment further on this matter," Cenovus said.

A spokewoman for Ontario Teachers said the fund manager had no comment on the report.

CIBC World Markets analyst Arthur Grayfer wrote Friday that the reported value of the deal is $500 million higher than CIBC's estimate and, to achieve that, Cenovus would have to sell some of its own production from the royalty lands in addition to the equivalent of about 7,500 barrels per day from third parties.

If the transaction occurs, he added, CIBC expects Cenovus will resume growth plans for its oilsands projects.

"The issue that arises in our view, notwithstanding the strong financial capacity, is that the dividend is a heavy burden if the company is going to pursue growth," Grayfer wrote.

In April, Cenovus said that of that maket conditions held up, it expected its cash flow would "essentially cover" its capital spending and maintain its dividend for the rest of the year. The company has announced it will pay a second-quarter dividend of 26.62 cents per share on June 30.

Cenovus is an integrated oil company. In addition to oil sands projects in northern Alberta, it produces natural gas and oil in Alberta and Saskatchewan. It also has 50 per cent ownership of two U.S. oil refineries.

Its stock has a market value of about $17.8 billion, based on recent trading at the Toronto Stock Exchange.