Imperial Oil misses profit estimates, warns pandemic fallout to drag on

(Reuters) -Imperial Oil Ltd, one of Canada's biggest crude producers and refiners, on Tuesday missed profit estimates for the fourth quarter and warned that a hit to fuel demand from the coronavirus crisis may drag on well into the current year.

Along with the rest of Canada's oil and gas industry, Imperial endured a torrid 2020 in which the pandemic crushed demand for fuel.

While crude prices recovered in the final months of 2020 amid global vaccination rollouts, fuel demand has not rebounded as yet and the pace of recovery remains shrouded in doubt.

Imperial, majority owned by U.S. oil major Exxon Mobil Corp, said its petroleum product sales came in at 416,000 barrels per day in the fourth quarter, down 7.4% from the prior quarter.

"Market conditions continued to reflect considerable uncertainty throughout 2020 as consumer and business activity has exhibited some degree of recovery, but remained lower when compared with prior periods as a result of the pandemic," the company said in a statement.

Despite the actions taken by key oil-producing countries to reduce oversupply, "unfavourable economic impact appears increasingly likely to persist to some extent well into 2021," Imperial added.

The Calgary, Alberta-based company's adjusted income stood at 3 Canadian cents per share in the reported quarter, missing analysts' estimates of 8 Canadian cents, according to Refinitiv IBES.

Imperial posted a quarterly loss of C$1.15 billion, or C$1.56 per share, hit by C$1.17 billion impairment charges on some abandoned unconventional assets in Alberta.

The company's production averaged 460,000 barrels of oil equivalent per day (boepd) in the quarter, up 26% from the third quarter, partially due to the return of some wells that were on maintenance earlier.

The integrated energy company stuck to its earlier spending forecast of about C$1.2 billion for 2021.

($1 = 1.2810 Canadian dollars)

(Reporting by Rithika Krishna, Editing by Sherry Jacob-Phillips)