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UPDATE 1-Pioneer Natural reports strong FY production as Exxon takeover looms

(Recasts first paragraph, adds details on FY production and analyst comment in paragraphs 3-8)

Feb 22 (Reuters) - Pioneer Natural Resources on Thursday reported 2023 production that exceeded its prior forecast, as the U.S. shale producer works to close its about $60 billion purchase by oil major Exxon Mobil later this year.

The company said full-year total production averaged 715,000 barrels of oil equivalent per day (boepd), ahead of its prior guidance of between 708,000 and 713,000 boepd.

Pioneer attributed the strong production to longer lateral wells, and said more than 125 wells with lateral lengths of 15,000 feet or greater were placed on production last year.

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Exxon agreed in October to buy Pioneer in an all-stock deal to bolster the largest U.S. oil company's production in the Permian Basin. The deal is expected to close in the second quarter.

"We view Pioneer's Q4 results as a non-event, given the pending acquisition by Exxon. While we expect the deal to ultimately close, as of yesterday's close, shares trade at a 4.1% discount to the deal terms with risk/delays from regulatory approval," Gabriele Sorbara of Siebert Williams Shank & Co said in a note.

Still, Pioneer's fourth-quarter profit missed estimates, partly due to lower oil and gas prices as well as higher production costs.

Average realized prices fell about 6% to $78.47 per barrel of oil in the quarter, the company said, while costs associated with oil and gas production rose about 16%.

Excluding items, the company earned $5.26 per share, missing analysts' estimates of $5.48, according to LSEG data. (Reporting by Mrinalika Roy in Bengaluru; Editing by Arun Koyyur and Sriraj Kalluvila)