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UPDATE 2-Pioneer Natural misses profit estimates on shale slump

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Nov 4 (Reuters) - Oil and gas producer Pioneer Natural Resources Co reported a lower-than-expected quarterly profit on Wednesday, as the COVID-19 pandemic muted fuel demand and hit crude prices.

Easing of coronavirus-related travel restrictions helped oil prices tick upwards in the third quarter from their April record lows, but a recent surge in infections around the world has stymied the recovery.

Pioneer said its average realized price fell 27% to $39.22 per barrel in the third quarter, while average sales volume totaled 354,968 barrels of oil equivalent per day (boepd), compared with 350,725 boepd a year earlier.

The company had curtailed about 5,500 barrels of oil per day of net production during the reported quarter and said it expects to curb the same amount if prices continue to stay low.

However, the producer raised its annual production outlook to between 365,000 boepd and 369000 boepd, from its previous estimate of 356,000 boepd-371,000 boepd.

Net loss attributable to common shareholders was $20 million, or $0.12 per share, in the third quarter ended Sept. 30, compared with a profit of $231 million, or $1.38 per share, a year earlier.

On an adjusted basis, the company earned 17 cents per share, compared with analysts’ estimates of 24 cents per share, according to Refinitiv IBES data.

Pioneer had last month agreed to buy rival Parsley Energy Inc for over $4 billion, as part of a consolidation wave in the shale industry, with operators looking at ways to grow in a low oil price environment.

Rival Diamondback Energy Inc had also posted a quarterly loss on Monday, as coronavirus-induced lockdowns hammered crude prices. However, it said it sees no need to purchase a competitor following a wave of mergers in the Permian basin, the largest U.S. oilfield. (Reporting by Rithika Krishna; Editing by Maju Samuel and Shounak Dasgupta)