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Athabasca Oil posts fourth-quarter loss in pivotal year for company

File photo of an Athabasca Oil operation.

Athabasca Oil

Athabasca Oil Corp. (TSX:ATH) had a $40.1-million loss in the fourth quarter of 2013, a transitional year for the Calgary-based company as it worked to get approvals for one of its oilsands projects.

Athabasca has been working to develop or expand several thermal oilsands projects and selling other assets. Among its holdings is a 40 per cent interest in a joint venture with a subsidiary of PetroChina.

The loss for the three months ended Dec. 31, 2013, amounted to 10 cents per share.

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That compared with a profit of $306.1-million, or 77 cents per share, in the fourth quarter of 2012 when Athabasca was required to record an unrealised gain of $374.6-million on the value of its Dover put option.

The put option gives Athabasca the right to sell its 40 per cent share of the Dover oil sands project for up to $1.32-billion to PetroChina.

The option's value increases (or falls) with the probability that Athabasca will be able to exercise the option. As of Dec. 31, the probability was estimated at 95 per cent.

Last week, Alberta's cabinet gave its approval, one of the last hurdles before Athabasca's Chinese partner can take full control of the development.

Once all approvals are in hand for Dover, PetroChina, has 30 days to exercise its option to buy Athabasca's share of the proposed five-stage project, which aims to eventually produce 250,000 barrels of crude a day using steam-assisted gravity drainage technology.

In the meantime, Athabasca Oil gets most of its revenue from investment income and production from its light oil division in the Fox Creek area. Revenue during the fourth quarter was $28.3-million, up from $18.4-million in the fourth quarter of 2012.

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