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Canadian Natural posts fourth-quarter earnings miss, hikes dividend

CALGARY – Canadian Natural Resources Ltd. (TSX:CNQ) is raising its quarterly dividend for the 13th year in a row, despite feeling the impact of persistently low natural gas prices and a drop in production volume that eroded its profit in the fourth quarter.

The Calgary-based oil and gas producer says it had 33 cents per share of adjusted earnings in the fourth quarter — down from 88 cents a year earlier and six cents below the consensus estimate of 39 cents per share.

Net income before adjustments was $352 million or 32 cents per diluted share, down from $832 million or 76 cents per share in the fourth quarter of 2011.

Canadian Natural’s revenue fell to $3.7 billion from $4.2 billion.

The company’s cash flow from operations, another measure of financial strength, dropped to $1.54 billion, or $1.41 per share, from $2.1 billion, or $1.96 per share.

The company said weaker cash flow was due to lower average prices and lower natural gas and synthetic crude oil volumes. That was partially offset by higher volumes of North American crude oil and natural gas liquids.

Despite these setbacks, Canadian Natural said its quarterly dividend will rise by two cents per share or 19 per cent to 12.5 cents per share.

On an annualized basis, the dividend will be 50 cents per share and at the latest closing price for Canadian Natural common stock the dividend’s yield is about 1.6 per cent.

Canadian Natural shares rose 39 cents to $31.55 in late-morning trading on the Toronto Stock Exchange Thursday.

For the full year, Canadian Natural had $1.9 billion of net income, $1.6 billion of adjusted earnings from operations, and $1.47 per share of adjusted EPS.

A year earlier, net income was $2.6 billion and adjusted earnings were $2.5 billion or $2.30 per share.

Note to readers: This is a corrected story. An earlier version had incorrect figures for the fourth quarter of 2011.