Medicine Hat News

Cenovus Energy reports $153M Q4 loss, including $100M KXL charge



The cancellati­on of the Keystone XL oil export pipeline has resulted in a second oilsands company posting a multimilli­on-dollar impairment charge in its fourth quarter earnings report.

Calgary-based Cenovus Energy Inc. on Tuesday reported a net loss of $153 million for the three months ended Dec. 31 - including a non-cash hit of $100 million related to U.S. President Joe Biden’s decision to cancel the pipeline’s permit the day he took office last month.

Last week, Suncor Energy Inc. reported a fourth-quarter net loss of $168 million, including a $142-million after tax transporta­tion provision related to its “backstoppi­ng” of TC Energy Corp.’s Keystone XL project as one of its contracted shippers.

“The charge relates to a developmen­t cost agreement signed with TC Energy in 2018 to advance the project at such time,” Cenovus spokesman Reg Curren wrote in an email.

“Due to the revoked presidenti­al permit and suspension of the project, we accrued a $100-million expense in the fourth quarter related to those developmen­t costs ... We expect this charge to cover the full amount of potential costs associated with the agreements and it’s considered a one-time expense.”

The Cenovus report, covering the quarter just before it completed its takeover of rival Husky Energy Inc. in an allstock deal that closed Jan. 4, largely met analyst expectatio­ns, but its shares fell by as much as 47 cents or 5.7 per cent to $7.74 in trading on the Toronto Stock Exchange.

Cenovus decided to forego its usual conference call with financial analysts because it held one two weeks ago when it announced the 2021 capital budget for the merged company.

In a statement Tuesday, CEO Alex Pourbaix said the company performed well in 2020, despite “unpreceden­ted challenges,” marked by lower oil prices and volatility due to the pandemic and global oil market turmoil.

“We believe our compelling combinatio­n with Husky will provide even greater ability to reduce free funds flow volatility and accelerate debt reduction and returns to shareholde­rs,” he said.

Cenovus set its 2021 capital budget at between $2.3 billion and $2.7 billion, including about $2.1 billion in sustaining capital to keep the combined output of the two companies roughly level at about 755,000 barrels of oil equivalent per day and with refinery throughput of about 525,000 barrels per day.

The company also vowed to use any excess cash flow to pay down debt to an initial target of $10 billion and a longer-term goal at or below $8 billion. It revealed Tuesday its total net debt after the Husky transactio­n is about $13.1 billion.

After suspending its crudeby-rail program in early 2020, Cenovus ramped up activity at its terminal northeast of Edmonton in the fourth quarter due to improving market conditions. It said it ended December with average shipments of nearly 28,000 bpd of its own oil, plus nearly 10,000 bpd for third parties.

The company reported its fourth quarter oilsands production increased two per cent to 380,693 bpd from the year-earlier period as it bought unused production curtailmen­t credits from other producers to exceed its output limits before Alberta’s mandatory curtailmen­t program ended in early December.

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