Petronas sees pre-tax profit this year to increase to $37 billion, S. Sudan helps

KUALA LUMPUR - Petroliam Nasional Bhd (Petronas) expects to rake in a pre-tax profit of RM95 billion (S$37 billion) to RM96 billion this year, surpassing last year's RM89.1 billion, helped by a stronger US dollar and oncoming production.

Group chief executive officer Tan Sri Shamsul Azhar Abbas said this was based on crude oil prices of between US$106 (S$132) and US$108 per barrel and an exchange rate of RM3.12 to RM3.15 to the dollar.

Production volumes had increased 6 per cent to 2.1 million barrels of oil equivalent per day as at end-September, from 1.99 million barrels per day a year ago, thanks to the resumption of its South Sudan operations and new oil and gas production from Malaysia, Iraq and Canada.

"We weren't expecting to see any production from South Sudan this year," Shamsul told reporters at a briefing yesterday.

The national oil company's South Sudan facilities, which restarted operations in March, are currently producing some 200,000 barrels of oil per day.

Petronas was ramping up activity there, where production stalled for more than a year due to disagreements with neighbouring Sudan over transit fees.

It logged a 16.1 per cent jump in net profit for the third quarter ended Sept 30 to RM14.47bil from RM12.47bil last year, buoyed by improvements across all segments. Turnover rose 19.13 per cent to RM81.41bil versus RM68.34bil as average Brent crude prices edged up to US$110.36 per barrel, compared with US$109.61 per barrel during the same period in 2012.

Versus the quarter ended June 30, Petronas said its total production in the third quarter showed a marginal decrease to 2.06 million barrels per day from 2.08 million barrels per day, while revenue climbed 9 per cent and pre-tax profit 18 per cent to RM25.9bil.

In the year-to-date, net profit gained 1.52 per cent to RM44.53bil compared with RM43.87bil last year, against a 8.47 per cent jump in revenue to RM232.51bil from RM214.35bil.

Petronas' capital investments up to September stood at RM38.4bil, 57 per cent of which was spent in Malaysia.

Gearing fell to 10.8 per cent from 11.7 per cent in December, while total assets rose to RM525.1bil versus RM489.2bil a year earlier.

In terms of segments, the bulk of revenue came from its downstream business at RM110.5bil, but its exploration and production arm contributed the most to earnings at RM27.8bil, making up more than half of group net operating profit after tax.

The state oil firm said its improved results were driven by higher crude oil and processed gas trading activities as well as better crude oil, processed gas and liquefied natural gas or LNG sales volume, although slightly offset by lower average realised prices for all major products.

Shamsul also said Petronas was on track to reach its final investment decision by the first quarter of next year on the RM60bil Refinery and Petrochemical Integrated Development (Rapid) project in Pengerang, Johor.

Petronas aims to formalise shareholders' agreements with its joint-venture partners for the downstream complex soon, he added.

The company has inked pacts with Germany's Evonik Industries AG, Italy's Versalis SpA, Japan's Itochu Corp and Thailand's PTT Global Chemical Public Co so far for developments within Rapid, whose commissioning has been delayed to 2018 from early-2017.

Meanwhile, Shamsul declined to comment on Petronas' proposed US$850mil deal to buy a stake in two Brazilian offshore oil blocks from OGX Petroleo & Gas Participacoes SA, the troubled firm owned by former billionaire Eike Batista.

OGX filed for bankruptcy last month in what was Latin America's largest ever corporate restructuring. "We will wait for the court's decision," Shamsul said.

He also kept mum on a purported plan by Petronas to sell a 10 per cent interest in its Canadian shale gas assets to India's state-owned refiner Indian Oil Corp, after earlier having hived off a 10 per cent stake in the project to Japan Petroleum Exploration.

"We are waiting for the Indian Government's approval," said Shamsul.

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