Jan 30 (Reuters) - Canadian Oil Sands Ltd, the largest stakeholder in the Syncrude Canada Ltd oil sands project in northern Alberta, said on Thursday fourth-quarter profits fell 12 percent due to higher expenses and a bigger foreign exchange loss.
The company, which has a 37 percent interest in Syncrude, said its profit dropped to C$192 million ($172 million), or 40 Canadian cents per share, from C$218 million, or 45 Canadian cents, in the fourth quarter of 2012.
Analysts, on average, had expected a profit of 49 Canadian cents a share, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.
Net income for the fourth quarter was affected by higher depreciation and depletion expenses, and a C$30 million increase in the company's foreign exchange loss, though partially offset by a higher selling price for its oil.
Sales volumes in the quarter averaged 112,092 bpd compared with 111,669 bpd in the fourth quarter of 2012. It received an average realized selling price of $91.47 per barrel, 2 percent higher than the same quarter a year earlier.
During the quarter, operating costs averaged C$37.60 a barrel, compared with C$38.76 in the year-ago period.
Though the Syncrude project can produce about 350,000 barrels per day, the site has a history of unplanned shutdowns due to equipment malfunctions, particularly at its complex upgraders, which convert tar-like bitumen stripped from the oil sands into refinery-ready synthetic crude.
Canadian Oil Sands' cash flow, a measure of its ability to pay for new projects, fell 6 percent to C$392 million, or 81 Canadian cents per share, from C$418 million, or 86 Canadian cents.
In December, the company estimated Syncrude's output in 2014 at between 95 million and 110 million barrels, or about 281,000 barrels per day at the midpoint of the estimate.