Husky 5-year plan braces for low oil prices

CALGARY — Husky Energy (TSX:HSE) released a new five-year plan Tuesday that braces for lower oil prices while forecasting average production to grow by nearly five per cent annually.

The Calgary-based company said it will aim to reduce its break-even price point by 2021 to US$32 per barrel from the current US$33.50. Crude settled Tuesday at $49.66 per barrel.

“Over the next five years we see average production growth of about 4.8 per cent annually, approaching 400,000 barrels (of oil equivalent) per day in 2021,” said CEO Rob Peabody at Husky Energy’s investor day in Toronto.

Peabody said Husky Energy plans to spend an average of $3.3 billion per year through to 2021, taking funds from operations from about $3.3 billion this year to about $4.8 billion in 2021.

The capital spending is expected to go mainly to heavy oil projects on the Alberta-Saskatchewan border as well as offshore projects in the Asia-Pacific region and off the east coast of Newfoundland.

The plan came a day after Husky Energy announced it would move ahead with the West White Rose project in the North Atlantic. The development, estimated to cost $2.2 billion, is expected to produce first oil in 2022.

Analysts had hoped to hear when Husky Energy would reinstate the dividend payouts it cancelled in late 2015 because of low commodity prices. But chief financial officer Jon McKenzie said no decision has yet been made by the board.

But he added Husky expects to generate rising levels of free cash flow over the next five years that will outstrip sustaining capital needs, based on an oil price forecast of US$50 this year, US$55 in 2018 and US$60 per barrel in 2019 and beyond.

“There is room for both growth and a dividend,” McKenzie said. “We don’t want to do one to the exclusion of the other.”

He said improved efficiencies have allowed Husky Energy to reduce its 2017 capital spending budget by $100 million to a midpoint of $2.55 billion.

About 70 per cent of Husky Energy’s shares are controlled by Hong Kong billionaire Li Ka-Shing.

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