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Which Is the Better Buy: Canadian Natural Resources Ltd. or Crescent Point Energy Corp.?

Canadian Natural Resources Ltd. (TSX:CNQ)(NYSE:CNQ) and Crescent Point Energy Corp. (TSX:CPG)(NYSE:CPG) are two of Canada’s most popular energy companies, and there are plenty of reasons for this.

But which is the better stock to buy today?

The case for Crescent Point

Let’s start with the obvious. The reason why so many investors love Crescent Point is the dividend. With a payout of $0.23 per month, the company’s dividend now yields more than 10%, easily the highest among S&P/TSX 60-listed companies.

And that dividend looks very safe, at least for the time being. Crescent Point has a solid balance sheet and a strong hedging program. Its light oil properties have fantastic economics, and can generate strong returns even with oil at US$60 per barrel.

Furthermore, Crescent Point shares are much more depressed than CNRL’s, having fallen by roughly 40% over the past 12 months. By comparison, CNRL shares have only fallen 20%. Investors were likely frightened about Crescent Point’s dividend, especially while other high-yielding energy companies were cutting their dividends left and right.

The case for CNRL

Unlike Crescent Point, CNRL does not have a big dividend. Some of its properties have higher costs. The company’s balance sheet isn’t as clean. And its shares haven’t been hit as hard. So, why should investors prefer CNRL?

Well there’s one big reason to prefer CNRL over Crescent Point: a difference in track records.

CNRL has done two things very well for a long time. One is control costs, which is an absolute must for an Alberta-based oil sands business. This year has been no exception, as CNRL has squeezed suppliers during the downturn. In the most recent quarter, the company’s operating costs per barrel decreased by 22%. Crescent Point’s fell by only 5%.

CNRL has also spent money very wisely over the years. Acquisitions have commonly been made at the bottom of the market, such as the purchase of $3.1 billion in natural gas assets from Devon Energy early last year. Fast forward to today, and the company continues to ramp up its Horizon oil sands mine, even in today’s oil price environment. Consequently, the company should achieve plenty more cost savings.

The verdict

At this point, I’m going to give the slight nod to Crescent Point. There’s little doubt that CNRL is the better company, but its share price simply hasn’t fallen enough, and is likely overvalued.

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This article represents the opinion of the writer, who may disagree with the “official” recommendation position of a Motley Fool premium service or advisor. We’re Motley! Questioning an investing thesis — even one of our own — helps us all think critically about investing and make decisions that help us become smarter, happier, and richer, so we sometimes publish articles that may not be in line with recommendations, rankings or other content.

Fool contributor Benjamin Sinclair has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool owns shares of Devon Energy.

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