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by Stockwatch Business Reporter
West Texas Intermediate crude for February delivery added $1.33 to $80.18 on the New York Merc, while Brent for March added $1.73 to $85.92 (all figures in this para U.S.). Western Canadian Select traded at a discount of $23.50 to WTI, unchanged. Natural gas for February lost four cents to $3.59. The TSX energy index added 3.33 points to close at 246.68.
Keith MacPhail and Ronald Poelzer's Alberta Montney-focused NuVista Energy Ltd. (NVA) added 35 cents to $12.23 on 670,500 shares, pleasing investors with its latest quarterly operational update and its "increased return of capital to shareholders." It patted itself on the back for producing an average of 74,300 barrels a day. This was above its previously announced target range of 72,000 to 74,000 barrels (although this partly reflects flush production, the abnormally high rate that occurs at the very start of a well's life).
Management also toasted itself for making better-than-predicted progress on debt reduction. It had set a year-end net debt target of $200-million, but now expects to land "comfortably below" that figure, although it will leave the specifics for when it releases its year-end financials in March. In keeping with an earlier promise, it has decided to increase the amount that it earmarks for shareholder returns -- specifically share buybacks; NuVista does not pay a dividend -- to 75 per cent of free cash flow, up from 25 to 50 per cent.
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