Canada's Cash-Rich Oil Sands Firms Face Pressure to Spend on Transition

Canada’s biggest oil sands producers are generating billions more in free cash flow in a faster-than-expected pandemic rebound, but taking a cautious approach to spending it that is disappointing environment-minded investors, Reuters reported. Their strategy to repay debts and pay shareholders has won praise from investors in Canadian Natural Resources, Suncor Energy and Cenovus Energy who are eager for higher returns. But greener shareholders warn they could divest or oppose management. The sharp recovery has thrust the companies deep into a debate on returns versus cleaner fuels that will determine the makeup of their business for decades. The oil and gas sector accounted for 26% of Canada’s carbon emissions in 2018, and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has set a goal of net-zero emissions for the country by 2050. Canadian Natural expects to generate up to C$5.4 billion ($4.30 billion) in free cash flow in 2021, from C$692 million last year. Suncor projects additional cash flow of C$400 million this year and C$1 billion by 2023. Cenovus could generate C$3.5 billion this year, analysts at investment bank Morgan Stanley estimate, from a loss last year. Read more.
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