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Canadian Natural Resources Limited announces 2018 third quarter results

Commenting on third quarter 2018 results, Steve Laut, Executive Vice-Chairman of Canadian Natural stated, "The strength of our well balanced and diverse portfolio, combined with Canadian Natural's ability to effectively and efficiently execute, delivered a strong third quarter for the Company. Record quarterly adjusted funds flow of over $2.8 billion was achieved in the third quarter and adjusted funds flow of $7.9 billion was achieved in the first nine months of 2018. Capital allocation continued to be balanced amongst our four pillars to maximize shareholder value. In the first nine months of 2018, economic resource development remained disciplined at 40% of adjusted funds flow. Returns to shareholders were robust at 26% of adjusted funds flow and 31% of adjusted funds flow was allocated to the balance sheet further strengthening our financial position. Lastly, the Company executed on minor tuck-in acquisitions, 3% of adjusted funds flow, that add optionality and significant future value.

Based on the significant progress made to date in strengthening the Company's balance sheet as well as the sustainability of Canadian Natural's free cash flow, the Board of Directors has approved a more defined free cash flow allocation policy in accordance with the Company's four stated pillars. Under the new policy, the Company will target to allocate, on an annual basis, 50% of its residual free cash flow, after budgeted capital expenditures and dividends, to share purchases under its Normal Course Issuer Bid ("NCIB") and the remaining 50% to reducing debt levels on the Company's balance sheet. This free cash flow policy will target a ratio of debt to adjusted 12 months trailing EBITDA of 1.5x and an absolute debt level of $15.0 billion, at which time the policy will be reviewed by the Board. At present, this policy is expected to be in place until at least the Company's NCIB renewal in May 2019, subject to quarterly review by the Board of Directors. This policy is effective November 1, 2018."

Canadian Natural's President, Tim McKay, added, "Operations were strong in the third quarter of 2018 across our large, balanced and diverse asset base. The planned turnaround at our Horizon operations was successfully completed under budget and production ramped up on schedule. Our focus on effective and efficient operations resulted in strong quarterly unadjusted operating costs of $22.90/bbl (US$17.52/bbl) of Synthetic Crude Oil ("SCO") and adjusted operating costs of $19.95/bbl (US$15.26/bbl) of SCO at our Oil Sands Mining and Upgrading operations. International production volumes were strong in the quarter and exceeded previously issued Q3 guidance as a result of the successfully completed 2018 drilling program in the North Sea and strong production from a newly drilled well in Offshore Africa. Our International light crude oil volumes receive Brent pricing which averaged US$75.46/bbl in the third quarter, generating significant adjusted funds flow. Thermal in situ quarterly production volumes averaged 112,542 bbl/d, exceeding Q3/18 guidance, primarily due to the cyclical nature of steaming cycles and from production resuming following the completion of planned maintenance activities in Q2/18, as a result of proactive and strategic decisions made earlier in the year.

Canadian Natural maintains a flexible and disciplined capital allocation strategy with a focus on maintaining a strong financial position and delivering significant shareholder value. In light of current market conditions driven by market access restrictions, lack of fiscal competitiveness and regulatory uncertainties, the Company will exercise its capital flexibility and allocate capital to those areas that maximize shareholder value. Canadian Natural will continue to make strategic decisions to reduce drilling activity, delay well completions and shut in production. The effectiveness of our strategies, combined with our ability to execute on these strategies, allows us to be nimble, capture opportunities and be more sustainable through these challenges."

Canadian Natural's Chief Financial Officer, Corey Bieber, continued, "In the third quarter Canadian Natural continued to deliver on its commitment to strengthen the balance sheet. The Company achieved quarterly net earnings of $1,802 million and record quarterly adjusted funds flow of $2,830 million, contributing to absolute net long-term debt reduction of approximately $2,880 million year to date. In the quarter, available liquidity improved to $5,350 million, an increase of approximately $550 million from the second quarter of 2018. Debt to adjusted EBITDA strengthened to 1.7x and debt to book capitalization improved to 36.8% over the quarter. Our focus on returns to shareholders has resulted in $2,030 million being returned to shareholders, in the first nine months of 2018, by way of dividends of $1,156 million and share purchases of $874 million. Subsequent to the quarter, an additional 6,900,000 shares were purchased at a weighted average share price of $38.66. Our balance sheet strength gives us the flexibility to deliver our defined growth plan and continue to drive long-term shareholder value creation."

  • Net earnings of $1,802 million were realized in Q3/18, an increase of $820 million and $1,118 million over Q2/18 and Q3/17 levels, respectively. Adjusted net earnings in Q3/18 of $1,354 million were achieved, a $75 million increase over Q2/18 and an increase of $1,125 million over Q3/17 levels.
  • Cash flows from operating activities were $3,642 million in Q3/18, increases of $1,029 million and $1,120 million over Q2/18 and Q3/17 levels, respectively.
  • Canadian Natural generated record quarterly adjusted funds flow of $2,830 million in Q3/18, increases of $124 million and $1,155 million from Q2/18 and Q3/17 levels, respectively. The increase over Q2/18 was primarily due to higher natural gas netbacks and the Company's continued focus on lowering operating costs in the Exploration and Production ("E&P") and Oil Sands Mining and Upgrading segments. The increase over Q3/17 primarily reflects higher realized prices from the Company's liquids production and higher liquids production volumes from the completion of the Horizon Phase 3 expansion.
  • In Q3/18, Canadian Natural delivered significant adjusted funds flow in excess of net capital expenditures of approximately $1,360 million, including deferred discounted purchase consideration. In the first nine months of 2018, adjusted funds flow in excess of net capital expenditures was approximately $4,310 million, including deferred discounted purchase consideration.
  • After dividend requirements, free cash flow totaled approximately $950 million in Q3/18 and in the first nine months of 2018, free cash flow totaled approximately $3,150 million.
  • Consistent with the Company's four pillar strategy, the Company has maintained balance in the allocation of its adjusted funds flow:
    • The Company remained disciplined in its economic resource development investments with year to date net capital expenditures of $3,196 million, excluding net acquisitions.
    • Year to date, the Company has reduced long term net debt by approximately $2,880 million, including the impact of foreign exchange, working capital and other adjustments, resulting in debt to adjusted EBITDA strengthening to 1.7x and debt to book capitalization improving to 36.8%.
    • Returns to shareholders remain a key focus for Canadian Natural as the Company has returned approximately $2,030 million in the first nine months of 2018, by way of dividends of $1,156 million and share purchases of $874 million.

      • Share purchases for cancellation totaled 9,872,600 common shares in Q3/18 at a weighted average share price of $43.81.
      • In the first nine months of 2018, share purchases totaled 20,012,727 common shares at a weighted average share price of $43.66.
      • Subsequent to quarter end and up to October 31, 2018, the Company executed additional share purchases of 6,900,000 common shares for cancellation at a weighted average share price of $38.66.
      • Subsequent to quarter end Canadian Natural declared a quarterly cash dividend on common shares of $0.335 per share payable on January 1, 2019.

In the first nine months of 2018, the Company has executed on opportunistic acquisitions of approximately $354 million, including Exploration and Evaluation ("E&E") expenditures of $257 million. Included in the E&E expenditures is the deferred discounted purchase consideration of $118 million, payable over the next five years.  These tuck-in acquisitions add significant future value to the Company's long life low decline asset portfolio.

  • The Joslyn acquisition has the potential to add significant long life low decline reserves as well as cost savings through the extension of existing Horizon South Pit operations. The lease-line development opportunities reduce the need to relocate Horizon operations to the North Pit, to install new equipment, and construct new infrastructure. Over the next decade, synergies with Horizon are targeted to result in cost savings of over $500 million. At the Joslyn lease, the former operator had project regulatory approval for a 100,000 bbl/d project.
  • The Laricina corporate asset acquisition which includes the Grand Rapids lands is a great fit with existing lands and operations in the area. The Company's Thermal team sees the opportunity to improve the future performance of the Grand Rapids which is targeted to be piloted through the existing facilities in the future. Additionally, the Company took over operatorship of a key road needed for operations in the area, which will result in immediate savings to the Company. Canadian Natural's lands combined with the acquired lands, have total Grand Rapids bitumen in place potential of 15.9 billion barrels, adding significant future shareholder value.

Based on the significant progress made to date in strengthening the Company's balance sheet as well as the sustainability of Canadian Natural's free cash flow, the Board of Directors has approved a more defined free cash flow allocation policy in accordance with the Company's four stated pillars. Under the new policy, the Company will target to allocate, on an annual basis, 50% of its residual free cash flow, after budgeted capital expenditures and dividends, to share purchases under its Normal Course Issuer Bid ("NCIB") and the remaining 50% to reducing debt levels on the Company's balance sheet. This free cash flow policy will target a ratio of debt to adjusted 12 months trailing EBITDA of 1.5x, and an absolute debt level of $15.0 billion, at which time the policy will be reviewed by the Board. At present, this policy is expected to be in place until at least the Company's NCIB renewal in May 2019, subject to quarterly review by the Board of Directors. This policy is effective November 1, 2018.

  • The Company's production volumes in Q3/18 averaged 1,060,629 BOE/d, comparable to Q2/18 and an increase of 2% from Q3/17 levels. The increase from Q3/17 was mainly due to the completion of the Horizon Phase 3 expansion, acquisitions completed in 2017 and production from new wells in the North Sea, partially offset by declines in natural gas production along with natural gas and heavy crude oil shut ins and reduced activity of 21,500 BOE/d.
  • In the first nine months of 2018, strong operating costs of $11.91/BOE were realized in the Company's E&P segment, a 7% decrease from Q2/18 levels, a significant achievement given strategic and proactive decisions to curtail, defer and shut in production during the year.
  • At the Company's world class Oil Sands Mining and Upgrading assets, operations were strong and above the midpoint of guidance in Q3/18, with quarterly production of 394,382 bbl/d of Synthetic Crude Oil ("SCO"), a decrease of 3% from Q2/18 levels, as planned pit stop activities at the Athabasca Oil Sands Project ("AOSP") and a major planned turnaround at Horizon were successfully completed in the quarter. Quarterly production increased from Q3/17 levels by 11% mainly due to the production from the Horizon Phase 3 expansion.
    • Through safe, steady and reliable operations, high utilization, and leveraging expertise to capture synergies, the Company realized average unadjusted operating costs of $22.90/bbl (US$17.52/bbl) of SCO in Q3/18, an impressive result given the planned downtime at Horizon in the quarter. After normalizing for planned turnaround downtime, operating costs reached $19.95/bbl (US$15.26/bbl) of SCO in Q3/18.
  • At Horizon, during the planned turnaround, optimization and reliability work on the Vacuum Distillate Unit ("VDU") furnaces and coker train was completed under budget and the units ramped up on schedule.

  • At Pelican Lake, polymer flood restoration for 2018 on the acquired lands was completed ahead of schedule, where approximately 62% of acquired lands are now under polymer flood. To optimize long term oil recovery and effectiveness of the polymer flood, the Company is using modified injection parameters in the near term. As polymer flood conformance improves, the Company expects to increase oil recovery and further maximize value. In Q3/18, as a result of effective and efficient operations, strong operating costs of $6.43/bbl were achieved, an 8% decrease from Q2/18 levels and a 9% decrease from Q1/18 levels.
  • Thermal in situ quarterly production volumes exceeded Q3/18 guidance, averaging 112,542 bbl/d, resulting in an increase of 7% from Q2/18 levels. The increase was primarily due to the cyclical nature of steaming cycles and from production resuming following the completion of planned maintenance in Q2/18 and proactive and strategic decisions to curtail production earlier in the year.
    • Pad additions at Primrose are ahead of schedule and on budget with initial production targeted to add approximately 10,000 bbl/d in Q4/19 and the total program is targeted to add approximately 32,000 bbl/d in 2020. These pad additions are high return activities as the Company targets to utilize available excess oil processing and steam capacity at Primrose.
    • At Kirby North, top tier execution and strong productivity has resulted in the project progressing ahead of the sanctioned schedule. Cost performance remains on budget with 80% of the Central Processing Facility complete and Steam Assisted Gravity Drainage ("SAGD") drilling nearing 70% completion. Kirby North targets to add 40,000 bbl/d of SAGD production with first oil targeted for Q4/19, one quarter earlier than originally planned.
  • International E&P quarterly production volumes were strong in Q3/18, exceeding quarterly production guidance and reaching 47,504 bbl/d. International production receives Brent pricing that averaged US$75.46/bbl in Q3/18, generating significant adjusted funds flow. The increase in production of 11% and 9% from Q2/18 and Q3/17 levels respectively, was primarily due to a successful drilling program in the North Sea, partially offset by natural field declines.
    • The 2018 drilling program in the North Sea was successfully completed on time and on budget with 3.9 net production wells drilled year to date. Current light crude oil production is exceeding sanctioned expectations.
    • In Q3/18, the Company successfully drilled the first of three gross production wells at Baobab. Current light crude oil production from the first well is exceeding sanctioned expectations at approximately 2,200 bbl/d net. Subsequent to the quarter, the second well came on production with initial rates at approximately 3,700 bbl/d net. The Company is targeting the third well to come on production in Q4/18, and is on target to exceed the original budgeted production adds for the program of 5,370 bbl/d net, and as a result, Canadian Natural is currently evaluating the option to drill an additional production well in 2019, extending the drilling program at Baobab.
  • Balance sheet strength and strong financial performance were demonstrated in Q3/18 through reduced long-term debt and upgraded credit ratings.
    • In Q3/18, Moody's Investors Service, Inc. upgraded the Company's senior unsecured rating to Baa2 from Baa3 and its short term rating to P-2 from P-3 with a stable outlook.
    • In Q3/18, Canadian Natural reduced long-term net debt by approximately $1,780 million from Q2/18 levels.
    • Canadian Natural maintains strong financial stability and liquidity represented by cash balances and committed bank credit facilities. At September 30, 2018 the Company had approximately $5,350 million of available liquidity, including cash and cash equivalents, an increase of approximately $550 million from Q2/18.
  • Due to current market conditions driven by lack of market access for both oil and natural gas, regulatory uncertainty, and lack of fiscal competitiveness, the Company continues to exercise its capital flexibility along with proactive decisions to strategically shift capital, curtail volumes, shut in production and delay completion of recently drilled crude oil wells. These factors will play a prominent role in 2019 and future capital allocation decisions.



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