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Norway’s Equinor operating profit beats as refinery and…

By Nerijus Adomaitis

OSLO, July 24 – Energy firm Equinor ASA on Friday reported a sharp drop in second-quarter operating profit that beat analysts’ estimates, as strong performance by its refinery and trading unit countered impact of a coronavirus-led slump in oil and gas prices.

The Norwegian oil and gas explorer posted an 89% slump in its adjusted earnings before interest and tax (EBIT) to $0.35 billion in the April-June quarter, compared with $3.15 billion in the year-ago period. A poll of 25 analysts compiled by Equinor had forecast an adjusted operating loss of $0.2 billion.

While all three oil exploration and production units, E&P Norway, E&P International and E&P USA, posted losses, its refinery and trading unit saw a rise in profits.

“Our financial results for the second quarter were impacted by very low realized oil and gas prices due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but also by a strong trading performance in volatile markets,” Chief Executive Officer Eldar Saetre said in a statement.

“We have reduced costs, maintained solid operational performance and continued to prioritize value over volume by deferring significant flexible gas production to periods with higher expected prices.”

The Norwegian government has imposed limits on oil output from June to December this year, backing efforts by the OPEC+ nations and others to support oil prices.

Equinor maintained a quarterly dividend of $0.09 per share, identical to the first quarter but down from $0.27 in October-December.

The company reiterated its goal of increasing output by 3% per year from 2019 to 2026, and kept capital spending plans for this year unchanged at $8.5 billion.

Equinor now expects crude oil prices to average $41 a barrel in 2020, up from a previous view of $39 a barrel seen in May, but it kept its long-term price assumptions unchanged, unlike other European majors.

The company has previously said it planned to revise its long-term price outlook, which could impact assets values, in the third-quarter. (Editing by Terje Solsvik and Rashmi Aich)

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