* Hires advisor for sale or joint-venture in Montney
* No timetable for completion
* Shares up 1.2 percent
CALGARY, Alberta, May 3 (Reuters) - Canadian Natural Resources Ltd, Canada's largest oil producer, said on Friday it is still in the initial stages of finding a buyer or joint-venture partner for some of its Western Canadian shale-gas holdings.
The company said in March it wanted to monetize a quarter of its million acres of exploration lands in the Montney shale region that straddles the border of northern British Columbia and Alberta. It is considering an outright sale of the lands or finding a partner with liquefied natural gas experience - a rare move for a company that has always operated independently.
Canadian Natural said it has now hired external advisors for the transaction. However, it cannot yet say when it expects to complete a deal.
"We're just starting out," Steve Laut, the company's president, said in an interview. "We're just getting the process set."
Laut declined to name the external advisor hired by the company.
Late on Thursday, the company said its first-quarter net income fell by half to C$213 million ($211 million), or 19 Canadian cents a share, as low oil prices and non-cash charges offset record oil production.
The company produced 680,844 barrels of oil equivalent per day in the quarter, up 12 percent from the year-prior period.
Canadian Natural shares were up 36 Canadian cents at C$29.83 by late afternoon on the Toronto Stock Exchange.