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Canadian Natural Resources Limited: Is it Finally Time to Buy This Stock?

Canadian Natural Resources Limited (TSX:CNQ)(NYSE:CNQ) is one of Canada’s top oil and gas companies, and a recent bounce in the stock has investors wondering if the bottom has finally been reached.

Let’s take a look at the company to see if it deserves to be in your portfolio now.

Managing costs

CNRL has been very proactive in its efforts to reduce costs as oil prices continue to plunge. The company lowered its 2015 capital plan from an initial target of $8.6 billion to about $5.4 billion.

For 2016, CNRL is tightening things up even more with capital spending expected to be $4.5-5 billion with roughly $2 billion allocated to the expansion of the Horizon oil sands project.

Investors might wonder why CNRL is dumping so much cash into Horizon in the current environment, but the facility has a planned life span of decades, and the rout in the oil market is actually helping CNRL through reduced costs.

Horizon has a target production capacity of 250,000 barrels per day and is already very efficient. The Q3 2015 average operating cost at the site was just $27 per barrel.

CNRL has an advantage over a number of its peers in that it tends to hold a 100% ownership position in its properties. This provides management with a lot of flexibility to move funds quickly from one asset to another in order to capitalize on opportunities in the market.

Production guidance

Year-over-year Q3 2015 output rose by 11% to 849,000 barrels of oil equivalents per day (boe/d).

For 2016, the company expects to deliver daily production of 840,000-850,000 boe/d with 65% of the supply coming from oil and natural gas liquids production and the remainder being filled by the company’s natural gas fields.

Considering the extensive capital cuts, the production outlook is impressive, and management could ramp things up a notch if oil prices stage a sustained recovery.

Dividend safety

CNRL pays a quarterly dividend of $0.23 per share. The payout was raised last year and currently yields about 3.5%.

Management remains committed to the distribution, and the company had adequate cash flow from operations in Q3 2015 to cover both the capital outlays and the dividend. Nonetheless, investors should view the yield as a bonus when evaluating the stock at current energy prices.

Should you buy?

The stock has rebounded more than 20% in recent days, so investors are getting a taste of the upside potential on an oil rally.

CNRL has a strong balance sheet and owns one of the best asset portfolios in the patch. If you believe oil and gas prices are bottoming out but want a safe pick in case you are wrong, CNRL is an attractive pick.

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Fool contributor Andrew Walker has no position in any stocks mentioned.

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