* Q4 net loss C$0.37/shr vs Q4.11 profit of C$0.91/shr
* Loss comes on C$1.49 bln upgrader writedown
* Q4 op. profit C$0.65/shr vs C$0.76/shr expected
* Decision on upgrader construction by end Q1
* Oil sands production rises 5 pct
CALGARY, Alberta Feb 5 Suncor Energy Inc
, Canada's largest oil company, posted a fourth-quarter
loss on Wednesday as it wrote down the value of its Voyageur oil
sands upgrading project just weeks before it is due to make a
final decision on whether to build the facility.
Suncor took a C$1.49 billion ($1.49 billion) writedown on
Voyageur and said the economic outlook for the facility, which
would convert bitumen mined from the oil sands into
refinery-ready synthetic crude, was "challenged" and it may not
Suncor said it and partner Total SA will make a
decision on whether to complete construction on the upgrader by
the end of March. It conceded last November that the facility's
profitability had been challenged by the flood of light oil
coming from the Bakken field in North Dakota.
"The partners have been considering options for the project,
including the implications of cancellation or indefinite
deferral," Suncor said in a statement.
The upgrader is the centerpiece of a C$20.6 billion
expansion plan that includes two new oil sands mines. Suncor and
its partners, Total and Teck Resources Ltd, will
decide whether to go ahead with Fort Hills, the first of the
mining projects, by the end of June. No timing on the second
mine has been made public.
With the writedown on the upgrader, Suncor reported a net
loss of C$562 million, or 37 Canadian cents per share, compared
with a profit C$1.43 billion, or 91 Canadian cents, in the same
quarter a year ago.
Operating profit, which excludes most one-time items, fell
30 percent to C$1 billion, or 65 Canadian cents per share on
lower oil prices and an extended maintenance shutdown of its
operations off the coast of Newfoundland.
The operating result lagged the average analyst estimate of
76 Canadian cents, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.
Suncor also said it will fight what could be a C$1.2 billion
bill from Canadian tax authorities over the treatment of
derivative losses. It expects to win the dispute and has filed
an objection to a preliminary ruling, but will still need to pay
C$600 million until the matter is resolved, it said.
Suncor's cash flow, a measure of its ability to pay for new
projects and drilling, fell 15 percent to C$2.24 billion, or
C$1.46 per share.
Production from the company's oil sands operations averaged
342,800 barrels per day, 5 percent higher than in the year-prior
quarter. However its total production from operations in Canada
and the North Sea, fell 3.5 percent to 556,500 barrels of oil
equivalent per day because of the maintenance shutdown.
Suncor shares closed at C$34.38 on the Toronto Stock
Exchange on Wednesday. The shares have fallen 1.5 percent over
the past 12 months compared with a 10 percent fall in the
exchange's energy index over the same period.