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UPDATE 2-Lundin Energy raises oil output forecast, Q4 beats expectation

* Q4 EBIT rises to $488 mln, beating forecast of $428 mln

* Sets long-term output goal above 200,000 boepd

* Targets carbon neutral operations in 2025 vs 2030 earlier

* Shares rise 3.5% in early trade (Adds capital spending, exploration plans)

OSLO, Jan 28 (Reuters) - Swedish independent oil company Lundin Energy raised its output forecast on Thursday and reported stronger than expected fourth-quarter earnings as Norway’s largest oilfield Johan Sverdrup ramped up production.

Lundin expects to achieve carbon neutrality for operational CO2 emissions from 2025, earlier than its original goal of 2030, after it added tree planting to its investment in renewable energy.

Its earnings before interest and taxes (EBIT) rose to $488.1 million from $382.5 million for the same period a year ago, beating the $428.2 million seen in a Refinitiv poll of analysts.

The company’s shares rose 3.5% in early trade to 234 Swedish crowns ($27.91).

Lundin plans to produce between 170,000-190,000 barrels of oil equivalent per day (boepd) this year and to raise that to more than 200,000 boepd from 2023, up from 164,500 last year and more than a previous goal of 170,000-180,000 from 2021 onwards.

Equinor, the operator of Sverdrup, simultaneously announced an increase of the field’s output capacity to 535,000 barrels of oil per day by mid-2021, up from 500,000 at the end of last year.

Lundin’s exploration spending will rise to $260 million in 2021 from $153 million last year and it hopes to find around 300 million boepd from eight exploration wells, the company said.

“I am confident that we can continue to grow (our) resources,” Chief Executive Nick Walker said in a statement.

On Wednesday, the company said it would pay a dividend of $1.8 per share for 2020, or $512 million, up from $1 in the previous year, reverting to the payout level it planned before the COVID-19 pandemic.

Lundin’s carbon neutrality target covers emissions from its own operations and energy use, known as Scope 1 and Scope 2 emissions, as well as some of those from use of its products, or Scope 3 emissions that are related to its supply chain.

$1 = 8.3835 Swedish crowns Reporting by Nerijus Adomaitis, editing by Terje Solsvik and Barbara Lewis

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