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UPDATE 2-Canada's Cenovus Energy swings to profit, eyes asset sales to repay debt

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(New throughout, adds comments about asset sales, debt repayment, ConocoPhillips stake)

By Rod Nickel and Sahil Shaw

May 7 (Reuters) - Cenovus Energy Inc on Friday swung to a first-quarter profit from the previous three-month period, and said it was actively looking to sell non-core assets to repay debt.

The oil and gas industry has seen a steady recovery, driven by an uptick in crude prices as COVID-19 vaccinations roll out and economic restrictions ease in some countries.

The Calgary, Alberta-based company posted net earnings of C$220 million ($180.56 million), or 10 Canadian cents per share, in the quarter ended March 31, from a net loss of C$153 million, or 12 Canadian cents per share, in the fourth quarter.

Cenovus, which acquired Husky Energy earlier this year for about $5 billion, is focused on repaying net debt this year to a target of C$10 billion, from slightly less than C$13 billion currently, Chief Executive Alex Pourbaix said.

"Living through the past year has really taught us the advantages and benefits of running with an under-levered balance sheet," he said on a conference call.

Selling non-core assets will accelerate that process, Pourbaix said, adding that the company has taken advanced actions toward sales.

He declined to specify which ones are available, but said Cenovus was focusing on divesting some oil and gas production assets.

Pourbaix has previously said that he canceled Husky's pending sale of retail fuel stations to see if a better price was available.

U.S. oil driller ConocoPhillips on Tuesday said it planned to sell its 10% stake in Cenovus.

Pourbaix said he was surprised at how Conoco announced its plans, but said Cenovus was open to working with Conoco about how to sell its shares.

Cenovus said its total production rose 64.7% to 769,254 barrels of oil equivalent per day in the quarter.

The company reported downstream throughput of 469,100 barrels per day (bpd), compared with crude runs of 372,000 bpd in the fourth quarter. ($1 = 1.2184 Canadian dollars) (Reporting by Rod Nickel in Winnipeg, Manitoba and Sahil Shaw in Bengaluru; Editing by Shailesh Kuber and David Gregorio)