Canadian majors report strong first quarter

By an OGJ Online Correspondent

CALGARY, Apr. 27 -- Canadian majors are reporting strong first-quarter financial results, based on high natural gas prices and improved crude oil refining margins.

Shell Canada Ltd., Calgary, reported net earnings of $354 million (Can.) compared to net earnings of $168 million for the same period in 2000.

Shell said cash flow from operations for first quarter 2001 was $489 million, up from $231 million for the same period in 2000.

Spending in first quarter 2001 included $287 million on the company's Athabasca oil sands project, now under development in northern Alberta. That compared with $96 million spent on the project in first quarter 2000.

"Exceptional market conditions and a strong operating performance allowed us to achieve record quarterly operating results," Shell Canada Pres. and CEO Tim Faithfull said.

"Production from the Sable Offshore Energy Project (offshore Nova Scotia) continues to grow, and work on the Athabasca oil sands project is progressing on schedule," Faithfull said.

Imperial Oil Ltd., Toronto, reported a 42% increase in first-quarter profits to $382 million, compared with $269 million for the same period a year ago.

Imperial, 70% owned by ExxonMobil Corp., said revenue increased 16% in the first quarter to $4.72 billion from $4.07 billion in first quarter 2000.

Imperial Pres. and CEO Bob Peterson said first-quarter results were excellent but noted that performance for the balance of the year depends on market conditions beyond the company's control.

Peterson said he hopes the strong performance will continue but "I have been in this business long enough to know I've never got that right."

Petro-Canada, Calgary, reported a huge increase in first-quarter earnings to $358 million from $19 million for the same period in 2000. Revenue was $2.48 billion, up from $2.09 billion in first quarter 2000.

The company attributed gains to high oil and gas prices and strong margins in its service station and refinery operations.

Pres. and CEO Ron Brenneman said product demand remains surprisingly strong despite some reports of economic slowdowns. He said energy consumption remains strong and gasoline prices are expected to remain high this summer.

"I don't think we are talking about shortages. I think it will show up in prices at the pump," Brenneman said.

Petro-Canada has advised the federal government that it is interested in buying the 18% interest of its stock that the federal government holds -- if market conditions are right.

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