The Imperial Oil logo is shown at the company’s annual meeting in Calgary on April 28, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh

The Imperial Oil logo is shown at the company’s annual meeting in Calgary on April 28, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh

Imperial Oil shares rise on dividend bump, higher share buybacks, strong production

CALGARY — Shares in Imperial Oil Ltd. rose Friday after it raised its dividend by nearly 23 per cent and announced accelerated share buybacks as it continues to prioritize returns to shareholders over spending on big growth projects.

The Calgary-based oilsands producer and refiner also reported first-quarter oil and gas production that beat analyst expectations.

“We have paid a dividend reliably for over 100 consecutive years now and grown it in each of the last 26 years,” CEO Brad Corson told a morning conference call with investors.

“Today’s announcements just continue to underscore not just our strong financial position and our confidence in the future but also clearly demonstrates our ongoing commitment to returning cash to our shareholders.”

Imperial said it will now pay a quarterly dividend of 27 cents per share, up from 22 cents. It also announced a plan to spend as much as $1 billion over the next two months to buy back up to four per cent of its outstanding shares, increasing the program from 50,000 shares to about 29 million.

CIBC analyst Dennis Fong called the buyback revision a “positive surprise,” adding past experience suggests Imperial will complete the purchases and likely renew the program in July at a similar or higher rate.

In Toronto, Imperial shares rose by as much as 4.8 per cent or $1.63 to a new 52-week high of $35.51 per share.

Imperial reported net income of $392 million or 53 cents per share on revenue of nearly $7 billion in the first quarter compared with a net loss of $188 million or 25 cents on $6.69 billion in the first quarter of 2020.

The termination of shipping agreements related to the cancelled Keystone XL export pipeline resulted in a liability of $62 million as of March 31 and an after-tax charge of $47 million on first-quarter earnings, reported Dan Lyons, senior vice-president of finance, on the call.

He added there was a corresponding decrease in Imperial’s long-term purchase commitments by $2.9 billion.

In the fourth quarter of 2020, Imperial lost $1.15 billion, mainly due to a $1.17-billion non-cash charge related to Canadian unconventional natural gas assets it doesn’t think it will ever develop.

Strong output from Imperial’s oilsands projects in northern Alberta boosted oil and gas production to 432,000 barrels of oil equivalent per day in the three months ended March 31, up from 419,000 barrels per day in the same period of 2020 but behind 460,000 boe/d in the fourth quarter of 2020.

Imperial noted production of 251,000 barrels per day at the Kearl oilsands mine (178,000 bpd net to Imperial), 140,000 bpd from its Cold Lake thermal oilsands operations and 79,000 bpd from its 25 per cent share in the Syncrude mining operations.

The number of people on site at Syncrude during a maintenance turnaround is being reduced due to a COVID-19 emergency declared by the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo, Corson said, but the work is still expected to be completed on time.

Refinery throughput averaged 364,000 barrels per day, compared with 383,000 a year earlier, as Corson reported that gasoline sales are now at about 80 per cent of pre-pandemic levels, up slightly from January, but jet fuel sales are still stuck at about 35 to 40 per cent.

Asked about Ottawa’s announcement of proposed carbon capture, use and storage supports in the recent federal budget, Corson said he thinks CCUS will be needed to get to net-zero emissions and the company is waiting to see more details to assess how it affects its plans.

Exxon Mobil Corp., which owns 69.6 per cent of Imperial, announced in February it would create a new company called ExxonMobil Low Carbon Solutions to commercialize technologies including CCUS. Corson said Imperial will have access to that expertise.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

If you're heading out to the West Country have a plan in case things go wrong, says Clearwater Regional Fire Rescue Services fire chief Steve Debienne.
(Photo from CRFRS Facebook)
West Country visitors should have an emergency plan: regional fire chief

Cellphones can’t be relied on in many back country areas

Rode
Sarcevic leads an impressive list of additions to RDC Kings soccer

In 2019 the RDC Kings soccer program took a major step forward… Continue reading

The Red Deer PCN Women's Fun Run will take on a different look this weekend with rising COVID-19 numbers.
Women’s Fun Run goes ahead this weekend in Red Deer

With new public health measures in place because of rising COVID-19 case… Continue reading

Alberta’s chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw asked Albertans to limit travel throughout the province as COVID-19 cases continue to rise. (Photo by Chris Schwarz/Government of Alberta)
Red Deer nears 900 active COVID-19 cases

Province reports additional 2,211 COVID-19 cases

David Eggen, the NDP’s advanced education critic, said the UCP government has been focused on cutting funding to post-secondary institutions across Alberta. (Contributed photo)
NDP worry new status for Red Deer College doesn’t mean more funding

This week the province announced that RDC will become a polytechnic institute

Alberta Health Services locked the Whistle Stop Cafe in Mirror on Wednesday morning after owner Christopher Scott refused to comply with health orders. (Photo by Paul Cowley/Advocate staff)
UPDATED: AHS shuts down Whistle Stop Cafe for defying health orders

Justice minister promises to get tough with those ignoring public health orders

Wizards beat Raptors in OT, Toronto playoff bid nearly over

Wizards beat Raptors in OT, Toronto playoff bid nearly over

Toronto Blue Jays' Teoscar Hernandez (37) hits a single to drive in two runs against the Oakland Athletics during the sixth inning of a baseball game in Oakland, Calif., on Thursday, May 6, 2021. (AP Photo/Tony Avelar)
Grichuk drives in 5, Jays beat A’s 10-4 for series split

Grichuk drives in 5, Jays beat A’s 10-4 for series split

Canada's Sports Hall of Fame 2019 inductee Jayna Hefford speaks in Toronto on Wednesday, October 23, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
Three Canadian teams to play in women’s hockey Dream Gap Tour in Calgary

Three Canadian teams to play in women’s hockey Dream Gap Tour in Calgary

Rugby Canada says some members of women’s sevens team have tested positive for COVID

Rugby Canada says some members of women’s sevens team have tested positive for COVID

Team Canada skip Kerri Einarson, centre, makes a shot as lead Briane Meilleur, left, and second Shannon Birchard sweep against Denmark at the Women's World Curling Championship in Calgary, Alta., Thursday, May 6, 2021.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Einarson’s five-game win streak ends with loss to Japan at world curling playdowns

Einarson’s five-game win streak ends with loss to Japan at world curling playdowns

FILE - In this Feb. 24, 2020, photo, the Olympics rings are reflected on the window of a hotel restaurant as a server with a mask sets up a table, in the Odaiba section of Tokyo. The vaccine rollout in Japan has been very slow with less than 1% vaccinated. This of course is spilling over to concerns about the postponed Tokyo Olympics that open in just over three months.(AP Photo/Jae C. Hong, File)
Canadian athletes, coaches applaud news of vaccine doses ahead of Tokyo

Canadian athletes, coaches applaud news of vaccine doses ahead of Tokyo

Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Disability Inclusion Carla Qualtrough holds a press conference on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Thursday, Sept. 24, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Liberals pressed to ease access to EI parental leave to help unemployed moms

Liberals pressed to ease access to EI parental leave to help unemployed moms

Katie Telford, Chief of Staff to the Prime Minister, appears as a witness via videoconference during a House of Commons finance committee in Ottawa, Thursday, July 30, 2020. The Canadian Press has learned that Katie Telford has written members of the defence committee inquiry into allegations of sexual misconduct against Canada's former top military commander, offering to testify at their meeting Friday. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
PM’s chief of staff offers to testify on Vance sexual misconduct allegations

PM’s chief of staff offers to testify on Vance sexual misconduct allegations

Most Read