Cabot Oil & Gas raises dividend as quarterly profit more than doubles

(Reuters) - U.S. natural gas producer Cabot Oil & Gas Corp on Friday raised its dividend by 29 percent after its quarterly profit handily beat analysts’ estimates on better-than-expected natural gas production and higher prices.

The oil and gas industry has been pressured by investors to curtail spending on investments and boost shareholder returns. Cabot answered that call by boosting its quarterly cash dividend to 9 cents a share.

Cabot’s first-quarter daily equivalent production rose 21 percent to 2.28 billion cubic feet per day (bcfe), exceeding the high-end of the company’s forecast range.

Natural gas prices, including hedges, rose 37 percent to $3.35 per thousand cubic feet in the three months to March 31.

The company also said it managed to push down its operating expenses by six percent to $1.48 per thousand cubic feet equivalent.

Cabot said it expects second-quarter production to range between 2.3 billion to 2.35 billion cubic feet per day and reiterated its expectation that full-year production would grow 20 percent.

Adjusted net income rose to $307.8 million, or 73 cents per share, from $128.5 million, or 28 cents per share.

Analysts’ on average had estimated earnings of 63 cents per share.

The company’s operating revenue rose 35.6 percent to $641.7 million.

Reporting by Arathy S Nair in Bengaluru; Editing by Shinjini Ganguli