By Arunima Kumar
(Reuters) -U.S. oil and gas producers on Wednesday posted quarterly profits that beat Wall Street expectations as energy prices recovered from pandemic lows to multi-year highs, prompting some drillers to raise dividend.
U.S. natural gas prices have surged more than 60% in the third quarter, while U.S. crude has climbed about 73% since the start of the year.
Pioneer Natural Resources, Marathon Oil Callon Petroleum Co and Apache parent APA Corp earned more than market predictions, while Continental Resources Inc's adjusted profit in the third quarter was in line with consensus.
The five companies sold their U.S. oil at 81% higher price than a year earlier and gas at nearly three times more, according to a Reuters calculation.
But unlike during previous booms in oil prices, producers did not raise spending to boost production and instead chose to return cash to shareholders through buybacks and dividends.
Continental on Wednesday increased its quarterly dividend by 5 cents per share to 20 cents, while Pioneer Natural Resources Co raised it by more than 10% to 62 cents and declared a variable dividend of $3.02 per share per quarter.
APA Corp raised its dividend for the second time this year, while Marathon Oil increased its base dividend for the third straight quarter to $0.06 per share.
Continental, which raised its capital expenditure by $100 million to $200 million, said it would buy Pioneer's Delaware basin assets in an all-cash deal valued at $3.25 billion.
Pioneer raised its full-year total production to between 613,000 barrels of oil equivalent per day (boped) and 619,000 boepd from earlier outlook of 605,000 boepd 631,000 boepd.
Shares of Marathon, Apache and Callon were up between 1.3% and 2% in extended trading.
(Reporting by Arunima Kumar in Bengaluru; Editing by Devika Syamnath and Arun Koyyur)