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UPDATE 2-Diamondback Energy tops profit estimates on higher crude prices

(Compares with estimates, adds details on asset sales)

May 3 (Reuters) - Permian basin-focused shale producer Diamondback Energy Inc topped market expectations for quarterly profit on Monday as COVID-19 vaccine rollouts and easing travel restrictions boosted oil prices.

A 27% surge in crude prices this year has lifted earnings of U.S. oil firms after the pandemic led to one of the worst downturns in the sector’s history.

Midland, Texas-based Diamondback’s average price for its oil and gas, excluding hedges, rose 54.5% sequentially in the first quarter to $42.36 per barrel of oil equivalent.

The company posted quarterly production of 307,422 barrels of oil equivalent per day (boepd), 2.8% higher than the previous quarter.

Diamondback also said on Monday it would sell its Williston Basin assets in North Dakota and Montana for about $745 million and some Southern Midland Basin acreage for $87 million without disclosing the buyer.

It had previously signaled that it could sell the Williston operations, which it had acquired in its $2.2 billion acquisition of Denver-based rival QEP Resources in March.

Oasis Petroleum Inc said in a separate statement it would buy the Williston assets from Diamondback.

The asset sales promoted Diamondback to trim its full-year production forecast to between 350,000 boepd and 360,000 boepd, from 360,000 boepd to 370,000 boepd previously.

Adjusted net income attributable to the company came in at $379 million, or $2.30 per share, for the three months ended March 31, compared with $130 million, or 82 cents per share, in the fourth quarter.

Analysts were expecting a figure of $1.80 per share, according to Refinitiv IBES data. (Reporting by Arunima Kumar in Bengaluru; Editing by Aditya Soni)

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