Canada's Imperial Oil misses profit estimate as expenses weigh

(Reuters) - Canada’s Imperial Oil Ltd reported a lower-than-expected adjusted quarterly profit on Friday, weighed down by higher costs in its downstream and upstream operations.

President and CEO Rich Kruger of Imperial Oil addresses shareholders during the company's annual general meeting in Calgary, Alberta, April 30, 2015. REUTERS/Todd Korol

Shares of Imperial, majority owned by Exxon Mobil Corp, fell about 4 percent to C$37.28.

Imperial, which posted a rise of about 22 percent in its total expenses in the fourth quarter, said its adjusted downstream net income increase was offset by higher maintenance activity.

Upstream operations were hurt by costs of about C$150 million ($121 million) related to its Syncrude and Kearl oil sand projects.

“In the context of the weakness we expect to persist in the heavy oil market, the company’s upstream cost structure needs to see further improvement if Imperial is to continue delivering a robust and competitive free cash flow profile into 2018,” Raymond James analysts said in a client note.

The company said refinery throughput averaged 391,000 barrels per day, lower than 401,000 bpd in the year-ago quarter due to maintenance activities at the Nanticoke refinery in Ontario.

The Calgary-based company reported a net loss of C$137 million, or 16 Canadian cents per share, for the quarter as it booked a charge of C$566 million related to its Mackenzie joint venture and the development of its Horn River basin gas field in western Canada.

The company said in December that it was dissolving the JV as it was not “economically competitive”. ConocoPhillips Canada, ExxonMobil Canada and the Aboriginal Pipeline Group were the other participants in the venture.

According to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S, Imperial earned 51 Canadian cents per share, excluding items, while analysts on average had expected a profit of 68 Canadian cents.

The company’s production in the quarter remained unchanged at 399,000 gross oil-equivalent barrels per day from a year earlier.

Exxon on Friday posted a rare quarterly earnings miss.

Reporting by Nishara Karuvalli Pathikkal; Editing by Maju Samuel