prices@ (Compares with estimates, adds earnings details)
Jan 31 (Reuters) - Canada's Imperial Oil Ltd edged past quarterly profit estimates on Friday, benefiting from a recovery in Canadian crude prices following Alberta's mandated production cuts.
The company, which recently appointed Exxon veteran Brad Corson as CEO, said the price differential between U.S. and Canadian oil narrowed significantly during the fourth quarter to average about $16 per barrel compared with around $40 per barrel, last year.
Imperial reported a profit of C$96 million ($73.05 million) in its upstream unit compared with a loss a year earlier, as price realizations rose and costs fell.
Alberta introduced mandatory production limits from Jan. 1, 2019 to ease congestion on export pipelines. Premier Jason Kenney's government extended these curtailments into 2020 in August on slow progress in building new pipelines.
The rare government intervention into Canada's oil industry attempts to shore up prices and stem an exodus of frustrated investors and foreign companies.
However, the company's downstream earnings fell 80.3% to C$225 million in the quarter, hit by lower margins of about C$680 million and planned turnaround activities of about C$220 million.
The company, majority-owned by Exxon Mobil Corp, said net income fell to C$271 million, or 36 Canadian cents per share, in the fourth quarter ended Dec. 31, from C$853 million, or C$1.08, a year earlier.
Analysts had expected the company to report a profit of 35 Canadian cents per share.
The company's average net production fell 5.5% to 362,000 barrels of oil equivalent per day (boepd).
($1 = 1.3142 Canadian dollars) (Reporting by Shanti S Nair in Bengaluru; Editing by Vinay Dwivedi)