UPDATE 1-Canada's Suncor Energy loss narrows on robust cost-saving measures

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Feb 3 (Reuters) - Canadian oil and gas producer Suncor Energy Inc posted a much smaller fourth-quarter loss on Wednesday, buoyed by significant cost-saving measures.

Canada’s second-biggest oil company said it exceeded operating cost reduction targets, reaffirmed commitment to significantly reduce its debt and increase returns to shareholders in 2021.

The company reported a net loss of C$168 million ($131.41 million) in the three months ended Dec. 31, compared with a net loss of C$2.335 billion a year earlier.

Crude oil and refined product realizations in the fourth quarter were significantly lower than the prior year period, with crude oil and crack spread benchmarks declining by more than 25% due to the continued impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, Suncor said.

The company produced 769,200 barrels of oil equivalent per day (boepd), down from 778,200 boepd in a year ago. Refinery utilization was 95%, compared to 97% a year earlier.

Suncor said it planned to pay down between C$1 billion and C$1.5 billion of debt and repurchase between C$500 million and C$1 billion of company’s shares in 2021.

$1 = 1.2784 Canadian dollars Reporting by Vishwadha Chander in Bengaluru; Editing by Rashmi Aich