Equinor beats first quarter forecast on strong energy trading
May 4 (Reuters) - Norway's Equinor beat first quarter profit expectations on Thursday, driven by strong results in energy trading, although earnings were well below last year's record amid a sharp fall in natural gas prices.
The oil and gas producer's adjusted profit before interest and tax for January-March fell to $12 billion from $18 billion a year earlier, but beat the $11.2 billion predicted in a poll of 26 analysts compiled by Equinor.
The National Gas Company of Trinidad and Tobago Limited (NGC) NGC’s HSSE strategy is reflective and supportive of the organisational vision to become a leader in the global energy business.
"Equinor delivered strong earnings and cash flow across the business and remains a safe and reliable provider of energy to Europe," Chief Executive Anders Opedal said in a statement.
The company maintained its guidance for production and capital expenditure and kept its dividend unchanged.
Equinor's adjusted operating profit for the January-March period was also down from $15.1 billion in the fourth quarter.
The majority state-owned company last year became Europe's largest supplier of natural gas as Russia's Gazprom cut deliveries in response to the West's support for Ukraine, sending European gas prices to all-time highs.
All major Equinor units outperformed expectations in the first quarter, although the key driver was 'very strong' trading profits in its so-called midstream division (MMP) across oil and gas, RBC analyst Biraj Borkhataria said in a note to clients.
The MMP unit swung to a pretax profit of $1.28 billion from a year-ago loss of $92 million, beating an average analyst forecast for earnings of $986 million, Equinor's report showed.
Equinor said its average gas sales price to Europe had declined by 37% year-on-year in the first quarter while the price of oil was down by 24%.
The group's oil and gas production stood at 2.13 million barrels of oil equivalent per day (boed) in the first quarter, slightly up from 2.1 million a year earlier as a ramp-up at fields such as Johan Sverdrup Phase 2 and Snoehvit in Norway, as well as Peregrino in Brazil, compensated for depletion elsewhere.
Gas volumes were up 1% year-on-year and represented more than 55% of the total production, "contributing to European energy security", the company said.
Equinor's full-year adjusted operating profit surged to a record $74.9 billion in 2022, more than doubling from the previous high in 2008.
Equinor's share price is down 16.6% year-to-date, underperforming a 4.2% decline in European petroleum stocks . (Reporting by Nerijus Adomaitis and Nora Buli, editing by Terje Solsvik, Gwladys Fouche and Susan Fenton)