(Reuters) - Chesapeake Energy Corp reported a quarterly profit that topped Wall Street expectations on Wednesday, helped by lower production expenses and higher oil and natural gas prices.

Chesapeake said its first-quarter profit was $15 million, or 2 cents per share, compared with a net loss of $71 million, or 11 cents per share, in the same period a year earlier.

Excluding one-time items, Chesapeake had a per-share profit of 30 cents per share. Analysts, on average, expected a profit of 25 cents, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

Production expenses fell 18 percent from a year earlier, while natural gas prices rose to $4.46 per thousand cubic feet equivalent (mcfe) from $4.02, and crude rose to $94.85 per barrel from $92.63.

The Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, company, which is searching for a chief executive to replace Aubrey McClendon, said its average daily production grew 9 percent to 4 billion cubic feet of natural gas equivalent per day.

Shares rose 3.6 percent to $20.25 in premarket trading.

(Reporting by Anna Driver; Editing by Gerald E. McCormick and Jeffrey Benkoe)

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