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by Stockwatch Business Reporter
West Texas Intermediate crude for June delivery lost 44 cents to $23.55 on the New York Merc, while Brent for July lost 26 cents to $29.46 (all figures in this para U.S.). Western Canadian Select traded at a discount of $4.87 to WTI, down from a discount of $4.86. Natural gas for June lost five cents to $1.89. The TSX energy index added 1.36 points to close at 73.38.
Following yesterday's surprise announcement of a steep cut to Suncor Energy Inc.'s (SU: $23.17) dividend -- with many analysts and money managers having expected Suncor to keep the dividend intact, or at least wait another quarter before cutting -- today it was another company's turn to subvert dividend expectations. Fellow oil sands giant Canadian Natural Resources Ltd. (CNQ), down 10 cents to $21.60 on 10.6 million shares, is leaving its dividend untouched. This flies in the face of the dividend-chopping predictions from analysts who had flagged Canadian Natural's higher debt, lower liquidity and weaker credit ratings relative to Suncor. None of that fazed Canadian Natural president Tim McKay. "Canadian Natural's business is unique, robust and sustainable," he declared. He said the company is expecting over $2.1-billion in savings this year, comprising $1.4-billion shaved off the original 2020 budget of $4-billion, plus $745-million in planned operating cost reductions. It is therefore maintaining the dividend and showing "confidence in the company's assets and plan moving forward." The 42.5-cent quarterly payout costs $2-billion a year and represents a yield of 7.9 per cent.
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