While reporting a strong first three months to the year, Suncor Energy Inc. management made a vow to keep its refineries and service stations despite a request by an activist investor to sell the national network.

Suncor

“We think we have the best downstream business in North America, and we think it’s important that it stays together,” said CEO Mark Little. He rejected a call for a breakup by New York-based Elliott Investment Management.

The average realized price fetched for synthetic crude oil nearly doubled in 1Q2022 to $114.37/bbl from $65.22 in the year-ago period. Lower grade bitumen jumped by 127% to $96.49/bbl from $42.53.

The Calgary-based company saw a boost during the first quarter thanks to increased commodity prices that outweighed upstream production changes or downstream sales volume increases. Earnings more than tripled in 1Q2022 compared to the year-ago period.

Suncor oilsands production dipped to 685,700 b/d in 1Q2022 from 690,600 b/d a year earlier due to a severe northern Alberta winter. Fuel sales by the Petro-Canada stations had a marginal increase to 551,900 b/d from 548,100 b/d.

Suncor reported it was on target to keep its capital expenditure budget at $4.7 billion during the year.

Net earnings were C$2.9 billion (C$2.06/share) in 1Q2022 from C$821 million (54 cents) in 1Q2021.

During 1Q2022, Suncor paid out C$1.4 billion to investors, including dividends of C$601 million and share buybacks of C$827 million. The company has also kept its payouts rolling past the first quarter. In early May, the buyback total hit C$1.3 billion.