Pioneer Natural Resources profit rises on higher oil prices

Feb 16 (Reuters) - U.S. shale producer Pioneer Natural Resources Co (PXD.N) reported a rise in quarterly profit on Wednesday, as a sustained recovery in energy demand from the pandemic-driven lows lifted oil prices to multi-year highs.

The company said fourth-quarter net income attributable to common stockholders rose to $763 million, or $2.97 per share, for the three months Dec. 31, from $43 million, 26 cents per share, a year earlier.

Pioneer said its average fourth-quarter sales volume rose to 687,143 barrels of oil equivalent per day (boepd) from 364,482 boepd a year earlier.

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Its production volumes came in at the upper-end of guidance, Chief Executive Scott Sheffield said in a release, which drove record annual free cash flow of $3.2 billion for 2021.

The average sales price in the fourth quarter for the company's crude nearly doubled year-on-year to $58.78 per barrel oil equivalent.

U.S. crude oil futures rose 55% last year, thanks to the global economic recovery, and settled at $93.66 a barrel on Wednesday, close to seven-year highs. read more

For the current quarter, Pioneer anticipates oil production to average between 348,000 barrels of oil per day (bpd) to 363,000 bpd.

Pioneer announced a base-plus-variable dividend of $3.78 per share, which reflects a more than 25% jump to the base component.

The company also boosted its share repurchase program with a $4 million authorization. In November 2021, its board of directors approved a $1 billion program.

Rivals Continental Resources Inc (CLR.N) and Devon Energy Corp (DVN.N) have also recently announced plans to increase share buyback plans amid higher cash flow and a continued focus on shareholder returns.

Pioneer's shares were up 1.5% in after-hours trading at $225.79 each.

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Reporting by Shariq Khan in Bengaluru and Liz Hampton in Denver; Editing by Shounak Dasgupta and Marguerita Choy

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