Calgary-based Suncor has been dogged by performance issues in recent years, culminating in a string of fatalities at oil sands sites and slope stability issues at its Fort Hills mine in northern Alberta.
The problems prompted activist investment firm Elliott Management to build a stake in the company and demand changes. Mark Little resigned as Suncor CEO in July 2022 after another worker was killed in a site accident.
Rich Kruger, who replaced Little in April, said the company saw improvement in safety and plant turnaround performance and progress on Fort Hills in the third quarter of this year.
“We’ve got more to do. But I think we have a business plan that we’ll be talking about in the not-too-distant future that has continuous improvement about it,” Kruger told analysts on an earnings call on Thursday. “As I sit here seven months in, I feel better than I did in the first month.”
Suncor reported third-quarter earnings that beat market estimates on Wednesday, helped by strong refining margins and higher sales volumes from its oil sands operations.
The company also completed previously announced lay-offs of around 1,500 people.
Analysts said Suncor’s results showed the company was moving in the right direction. Its shares rose 4.7% to C$45.33 on the Toronto Stock Exchange on Thursday. On a year-to-date basis, Suncor shares have only risen 5.3%, lagging the performance of rivals Canadian Natural Resources and Imperial Oil, which are up 17.9% and 15.8%, respectively.
(Reporting by Nia Williams; Editing by Paul Simao)