February 6, 2018 / 9:31 PM / 7 months ago

Pioneer Natural boosts dividend fourfold after profit surges

HOUSTON (Reuters) - Pioneer Natural Resources Co posted a quarterly profit on Tuesday that far exceeded Wall Street’s expectations, and the U.S. shale oil producer boosted its dividend fourfold, sending its stock up more than 4 percent in extended trading.

The company is one of the largest oil producers in the Permian Basin of West Texas and New Mexico and one of the first independent U.S. shale producers to post quarterly results, offering a positive harbinger for peers yet to report.

Its strong results show the benefit the entire industry has gotten from rising oil prices in recent months after a two-year price downturn.

The Irving, Texas-based company posted fourth-quarter net income of $655 million, or $3.87 per share, swinging from a net loss of $44 million, or 26 cents per share, in the year-ago quarter.

Excluding one-time items, Pioneer earned $1.22 per share. By that measure, analysts expected earnings of 80 cents per share, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

Production rose 26 percent to 304,989 barrels of oil equivalent per day (boe/d). Pioneer, which has hedged 85 percent of its Permian production, expects to pump 304,000 to 314,000 boe/d in the first quarter.

The company has set a target to pump more than 1 million boe/d by 2026.

Pioneer increased its dividend, which it pays twice a year, to 16 cents from 4 cents. The dividend is payable April 12 to shareholders of record on March 29. Pioneer also approved a $100 million stock buyback to offset dilution.

For 2018, Pioneer expects to spend $2.9 billion, about 4 percent higher than last year. That budget should be covered by cash flow if oil prices average $58 per barrel, the company said.

Pioneer also plans to sell its acreage in the Eagle Ford Shale region in southern Texas, as well the West Panhandle gas field in Texas and the Raton field in Colorado.

Executives have scheduled a conference call with investors to discuss the results on Wednesday morning.

Reporting by Ernest Scheyder; Editing by David Gregorio

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