UPDATE 4-Venezuela PDVSA's 2011 net profit rises 42 pct
* State oil company's revenue was $124.8 billion last year
* Invested $17.9 bln in 2011 vs $13.3 bln in 2010
* PDVSA doubled funding of Chavez government in 2011
By Marianna Parraga and Daniel Wallis
CARACAS, April 17 (Reuters) - Net profit at Venezuela's state oil company PDVSA leaped 42 percent to $4.49 billion last year, helping to double its funding of President Hugo Chavez's government programs to almost $50 billion, the company said on T ue sday.
Chavez is seeking a new six-year term in the country's Oct. 7 elections and has been increasingly leaning on PDVSA, one of the world's biggest energy companies, to serve as the financial motor of his socialist "revolution".
PDVSA funds everything from free health clinics to sports and cultural projects, and is leading an ambitious government plan to build hundreds of thousands of new homes.
Energy Minister and PDVSA President Rafael Ramirez said the company also increased its investment in the oil industry by about one-third to $17.9 billion last year, compared with 2010.
"PDVSA is one of the top companies in the world in terms of its investment," Ramirez said at a presentation of its 2011 results. "This is a state company. It doesn't respond to private companies or stock markets ... It makes special distributions, supporting programs for our owner, the Venezuelan state."
The company's revenue grew to a record $124.8 billion last year from $94.9 billion a year before, thanks to higher world oil prices that allowed PDVSA an unprecedented average price for its basket of crude and products of $101.06 a barrel in the year.
Financial debt climbed to $34.9 billion from $21.3 billion over the same period, Ramirez said.
PDVSA said Venezuela's oil production last year was 2.99 million barrels per day (bpd), up slightly from 2.97 million bpd in 2010, while exports rose 2.5 percent to 2.47 million bpd.
Chavez's government aims to boost output to 3.5 million bpd in 2012, which would be the biggest annual rise of the 57-year-old former soldier's 13 years in power. Output had peaked at 3.2 million bpd in 2008.
International energy organizations routinely estimate Venezuela's crude production to be below levels the government reports, which added to the skepticism last year when it stopped publishing certified data.
"They criticize us, saying production has stagnated ... They need to realize that it has been a deliberate policy to cut production so the price recovers," Ramirez said on Tuesday.
PDVSA will boost investment further to $18.5 billion this year, the minister told reporters.
Critics say his government has not invested enough in increasing production, and has scared off many foreign investors by nationalizing most of the industry.
Much of the new production is slated to come from the vast, mostly untapped Orinoco extra heavy oil belt, one of the planet's biggest crude reserves.
But some executives of PDVSA's partner companies working at Orinoco said delays in payments by the giant state oil company are slowing development of their projects.
Debt to suppliers increased to $12.4 billion, PDVSA said in its report, from $10.1 billion in 2010.
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