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Canadian Natural Resources profit soars 125%, announces special dividend

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A Canadian Natural Resources pump jack pumps oil out of the ground near Dorothy, Alberta, June 30, 2009. CNR is a large Canadian energy producer. REUTERS/Todd Korol (CANADA BUSINESS ENERGY)
A Canadian Natural Resources pump jack pumps oil out of the ground near Dorothy, Alberta, June 30, 2009. CNR is a large Canadian energy producer. REUTERS/Todd Korol (CANADA BUSINESS ENERGY)

Canadian Natural Resources (CNQ.TO)(CNQ) announced a special dividend on Thursday, adding to a parade of oil sands players doling out shareholder rewards fuelled by strong crude prices.

The Calgary-based oil and gas producer says profit in the second quarter more than doubled from a year ago, rising over 125 per cent year-over-year to $3.5 billion for the three months ended June 30.

Canadian Natural says cash flow from operations topped $5.9 billion compared to $2.9 billion a year ago, as the price of West Texas Intermediate (CL=F) crude averaged US$108 per barrel, up from US$66. After adjustments including dividend payments, the company says free cash flow for the quarter was $3.3 billion.

Canadian Natural says it will pay a special dividend of $1.50 per share on Aug. 31 to shareholders of record as of Aug. 23, double its current quarterly dividend of $0.75 per share.

“Strong execution across the company's operations year-to-date has resulted in substantial free cash flow generation,” chief financial officer Mark Stainthorpe stated in a news release. “As a result, our financial position continues to strengthen, allowing for incremental returns to shareholders.”

Canadian Natural ended the quarter with $12.4 billion in net debt, closing in on its “base level” of $8 billion. Once that target is reached, the company says it will allocate additional free cash flow to its shareholders. Canadian Natural said it paid out about $2.9 billion in the second quarter, including approximately $900 million in dividends, and $2 billion in share repurchases.

Daily production before royalties averaged 860,338 million barrels of oil equivalent per day (mboe/d) in the quarter, down from 872,718 in the same quarter last year.

Canadian Natural upped its full-year capital spending forecast to as much as $4.9 billion from $4.3 billion. It also raised its production guidance range to between 1,295 and 1,335 mboe/d.

Toronto-listed shares added 0.72 per cent to $67.38 as at 10:31 a.m. ET on Thursday.

Jeff Lagerquist is a senior reporter at Yahoo Finance Canada. Follow him on Twitter @jefflagerquist.

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