Hess posts smaller loss on cost cuts, rising oil prices

(Reuters) - U.S. oil and gas producer Hess Corp HES.N reported its 14th consecutive quarterly loss on Wednesday, though results beat Wall Street's expectations as it cut expenses and benefited from a rise in oil prices CLc1.

The company said it was working to turn operations around and boost returns. Hess has been cutting costs, reducing debt and ramping up its share buyback under pressure from activist hedge fund Elliott Management.

“Our focus for 2018 is on execution and we believe we are off to a very strong start to the year,” Chief Executive Officer John Hess said in a statement.

Shares of the New York-based company, which operates in North Dakota and the U.S. Gulf of Mexico, rose about 1.5 percent to $58.52 in afternoon trading.

Net loss attributable to Hess narrowed to $106 million, or 38 cents per share, in the first quarter ended March 31, from $324 million, or $1.07 per share, a year earlier.

Excluding one-time charges, the loss was 27 cents per share, while analysts on average had expected a loss of 49 cents per share, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

Net production fell to 255,000 barrels of oil equivalent per day (boepd) from 311,000 boepd a year earlier. However the company exceeded its forecast as production in North Dakota’s Bakken shale increased 12 percent.

Production had been expected to be lower in the U.S. Gulf of Mexico due to a shutdown of the Enchilada platform following a fire.

For the year, Hess expects production of 245,000 to 255,000 boepd.

Total costs in the quarter fell 11.6 percent to $1.38 billion, from a year earlier.

The company’s average realized price of crude oil jumped 22 percent to $59.32 per barrel.

In Guyana, where Hess is a minority partner in an oil project with Exxon Mobil Corp XOM.N, first oil production is still expected by 2020, with two subsequent projects coming online by 2022 and 2023 or 2024, executives said on a conference call with investors.

Reporting by Ernest Scheyder in Houston and Karan Nagarkatti in Bengaluru; Editing by David Gregorio and Lisa Shumaker