Petronas posts Q3 profit fall, warns on outlook

Reuters, Tuesday 6 Mar 2012

The largest public Malyasian compnany reports a drop of more than one third in 2011

Malaysia's state oil firm Petronas said on Monday its net profit fell 34 per cent in the last three months of 2011, hit by one-off gains the previous year, but rose over the nine months to December on higher crude oil prices and gas production volume.

The unlisted firm, which accounts for nearly half of the Malaysian government's revenue, warned of a weakening outlook in the coming months as it struggles to raise crude production and expects weaker global crude prices.

Petroliam Nasional Bhd's (Petronas') net profit for the nine-month period ended December 31, 2011 rose 10.6 per cent from a year ago to 55.57 billion ringgit ($18.5 billion), it said. Revenue rose 26.9 per cent to 222.79 billion ringgit.

The 34 per cent decline in third-quarter profit was mainly due to a one-off gain in 2010 from the listing of subsidiaries, it said.

Without that gain, Petronas' Q3 profit was up from a year ago on the back of higher crude oil prices and improved margins, it said.

Petronas listed Petronas Chemicals Group Bhd and Malaysia Marine and Heaving Engineering Holdings Bhd in 2010.

"Growth in 2012 and 2013 will be not be as strong as we have seen last year as the current crude oil prices won't last long. It is hurting the economy," Petronas' president and CEO Shamsul Azhar Abbas told reporters.

He said crude oil prices are expected to hover between $85 to $90 per barrel this year, compared to around $110 now.

Shamsul said the company's crude production was expected to be lower this year due to natural depletion.

"Challenge remains in production," he told reporters, adding that political uncertainties in the Middle East were adding to the difficult outlook. Petronas' oil production declined four per cent last year.

Petronas is facing depleting oil and gas reserves in Malaysia and has stepped up its deep-water exploratory activities as well as re-exploring marginal fields.

SUDAN PRODUCTION CEASED

Petronas' oil production in South Sudan, which amounted to some 135,000 barrels a day or 18 per cent of its total production, has ceased due to a row between Sudan and South Sudan over oil transit fees, said Shamsul.

"It's a severe reduction and we have no idea of when we will be able to get back the 135,000 barrels a day," he told reporters. "But it will be partially offset by our other production in other countries such as Uzbekistan."

Petronas is part of Chinese-Malaysian oil firm Petrodar. South Sudan said in February it had expelled the head of Petrodar, which is the main oil firm in the country, after accusing Chinese firms of helping Sudan to seize the southern oil.

Oil from Sudan accounts for about 20 to 30 per cent of Petronas' international oil production, making it the single largest contributor.

Shamsul said Petronas was still keen on the Indonesian market despite its decision last month to leave the consortium exploring the East Natuna project, Asia's biggest untapped gas reserve. Indonesia's state oil and gas firm Pertamina was a partner in the consortium.

"We get in if the price is right, if not, we get out," he said. "Pertamina initially gave us a 20 per cent stake, but it was later revised to 10 per cent, then to five per cent, and finally we move out."

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