UPDATE 1-Cenovus reports operating loss on impairment charge
* Fourth-qtr oper loss C$0.25/shr vs year-ago oper profit C$0.44/shr
* Fourth-qtr cash flow falls 18 percent
* Company expects more pressure on operating costs in 2013
Feb 14 (Reuters) - Cenovus Energy Inc reported a fourth-quarter operating loss as it wrote down the value of its natural gas assets in southeast Alberta, and said it expects more pressure on costs this year due to higher fuel and power prices.
The company recorded a net loss of C$118 million ($117.7 million), or 16 Canadian cents per share, compared with a profit of C$266 million, or 35 Canadian cents per share, a year earlier.
Operating loss, which excludes most one-time and unusual items, was C$189 million, or 25 Canadian cents per share, due to the one-time write down of C$393 million in its conventional operations.
The company, which operates the Foster Creek and Christina Lake oil sands developments in northern Alberta, said the impairment related to its Suffield conventional assets.
Cenovus said estimated future cash flows for the assets have declined, largely as the result of a drop in forecast for natural gas prices over the long term.
Natural gas prices hit a 13-year low in 2012, although they rose 2 percent to average $3.54 per million British thermal unit in the quarter ending December.
Cash flow, a glimpse into the company's ability to fund its projects, fell 18 percent to C$697 million, or 92 Canadian cents per share.
Total oil production in the quarter rose 23 percent to 177,646 barrels of oil per day.
The company said its board approved a dividend increase of 10 percent for the first quarter, resulting in a quarterly dividend of 24.2 Canadian cents per share.
Shares of the company, which has a market value of C$24.78 billion, closed at C$32.60 on Wednesday on the Toronto Stock Exchange.
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