PetroChina first-quarter profit flat as weak fuel business offsets exploration gains

SINGAPORE/SHANGHAI (Reuters) - PetroChina said on Monday its first-quarter net profit edged up 1 percent from a year earlier as a weaker refined fuel business offset strong growth at its exploration and production segment.

The state-controlled giant, Asia's largest oil and gas producer, said net profit in the January-March period was 10.255 billion yuan ($1.52 billion), versus 10.15 billion a year ago.

Total revenue grew 8.9 percent during the period to 591 billion yuan, the firm said in a filing to the Hong Kong Stock Exchange. It is still the lowest quarterly revenue since the second-quarter of 2018.

PetroChina's crude oil production rose 4.6 percent during the period to 223.4 million barrels, and output of natural gas expanded 8.9 percent to 999.9 billion cubic feet.

Its dominant exploration and production business reaped in operating profit of 14.33 billion yuan in the first three months of the year, up 47 percent over a year earlier.

The group's crude oil throughput rose 3.3 percent to 291.6 million barrels, or 3.24 million barrels per day.

First-quarter operating profit from the refining and chemical segment, however, shrank by 64 percent to 2.999 billon yuan, because of inventory loss in refined fuel products and also weakening margins in petrochemicals production.

The natural gas import business - including piped gas and liquefied natural gas - suffered a net loss of about 3.3 billion yuan, narrowing from the 5.82 billion loss a year earlier, thanks to higher sales, the firm said.

The state firm has for years suffered heavy losses in the gas import business because the cost of gas imports often exceeds the government-capped domestic prices.

PetroChina's Hong Kong share prices are up 3.7 percent so far in 2019, underperforming the 21 percent rise of its domestic peer CNOOC Ltd and the 23 percent jump of the Shanghai Composite index over the same period.

($1 = 6.7318 Chinese yuan renminbi)

(Reporting by Chen Aizhu in Singapore and Meng Meng in Shanghai; Editing by Muralikumar Anantharaman)

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