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Vaar Energi maintains dividend after Q1 operating profit falls

OSLO (Reuters) - Norwegian oil and gas firm Vaar Energi, majority owned by Italy's Eni, on Monday maintained its quarterly dividend payment at $270 million after the company's January to March operating profit fell from a year ago.

Earnings before interest and tax (EBIT) of $1.43 billion for the first quarter were down from $1.75 billion in the same period of 2022, but in line with the average $1.4 billion forecast in a Vaar poll of 13 analysts.

The company said development projects that underpin its long-term production growth were progressing according to plan.

"Overall, we maintain a high activity level to deliver more than 50% production growth over the next three years," Chief Executive Torger Roed said in a statement.

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The Vaar-operated Balder X project was expected to start producing first oil in the third quarter of 2024, while Equinor-operated Johan Castberg, where Vaar has a stake, was on track to start in the fourth quarter of 2024, the company said.

Vaar expects its output to grow to more than 350,000 barrels of oil equivalent per day (boed) by the end of 2025 from 214,000 boed in the first quarter of 2023.

Early last year, Vaar became the largest pure-play oil exploration and production (E&P) company to list globally in almost a decade. Eni today holds a 63.04% stake and its Norwegian partner HitecVision 20.7%.

(Reporting by Nerijus Adomaitis, editing by Terje Solsvik)