Equinor posts Q2 profit beating on the back of strong refining performance

The Norwegian energy firrm expects crude oil prices to average $41 a barrel in 2020, up from a previous view of $39 a barrel seen in May

epa08562928 (FILE) - Eldar Saetre, the CEO of Norwegian natural gas and oil company Equinor, looks at his own shadow cast on an equinor sign after the presentation of the company's Q3 results, outside their headquarters in Fornebu, Norway, 25 October 2018 reissued 23 July 2020). Equinor, previously named Statoil, is due to release their 2nd quarter 2020 results on 24 July 2020.  EPA/VIDAR RUUD NORWAY OUT *** Local Caption *** 54726161
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Energy firm Equinor reported a sharp drop in second-quarter operating profit that beat analysts' estimates, as strong performance by its refinery and trading unit countered impact of a coronavirus-led slump in oil and gas prices.

The Norwegian oil and gas explorer posted an 89 per cent slump in its adjusted earnings before interest and tax (EBIT) to $0.35 billion in the April-June quarter, compared with $3.15bn in the year-ago period. A poll of 25 analysts compiled by Equinor had forecast an adjusted operating loss of $0.2bn.

While all three oil exploration and production units, E&P Norway, E&P International and E&P USA, posted losses, its refinery and trading unit saw a rise in profits.

"Our financial results for the second quarter were impacted by very low realised oil and gas prices due to the Covid-19 pandemic, but also by a strong trading performance in volatile markets," chief executive Eldar Saetre said in a statement.

"We have reduced costs, maintained solid operational performance and continued to prioritise value over volume by deferring significant flexible gas production to periods with higher expected prices."

The Norwegian government has imposed limits on oil output from June to December this year, backing efforts by the Opec+ nations and others to support oil prices.

Equinor maintained a quarterly dividend of $0.09 per share, identical to the first quarter but down from $0.27 in October-December.

The company reiterated its goal of increasing output by 3 per cent per year from 2019 to 2026, and kept capital spending plans for this year unchanged at $8.5bn.

Equinor now expects crude oil prices to average $41 a barrel in 2020, up from a previous view of $39 a barrel seen in May, but it kept its long-term price assumptions unchanged, unlike other European majors.

The company has previously said it planned to revise its long-term price outlook, which could impact assets values, in the third-quarter.