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(Adds details of results, analyst comments)
* Q3 profit 21.3 bln rupees vs est 22.7 bln rupees
* Fuel costs rise 30 pct
NEW DELHI, Jan 27 (Reuters) - NTPC Ltd, India's top power producer, reported a bigger-than-expected 10 percent fall in quarterly net profit, hurt by a surge in fuel costs amid coal and natural gas shortages in Asia's third-largest economy.
Shortage of local fuel, costlier imports and lower buying power of loss-making state-run distribution utilities have forced power generators to run below capacity and go slow on expansion.
The government set up a panel of top bureaucrats to suggest measures to resolve the crisis in the power sector after top executives from the country's biggest private producers took their case to the prime minister this month.
"NTPC's results show the larger problems faced by the power sector," said Jagannadham Thunuguntla, head of research at SMC Global Securities in New Delhi.
State-run NTPC, which generates a fifth of India's power, said net profit fell to 21.3 billion rupees ($425 million) for its fiscal third quarter ended December, from 23.7 billion rupees a year earlier, even as sales rose 14 percent from a year earlier to 153.32 billion rupees.
Analysts expected a net profit of 22.7 billion rupees on sales of 159.5 billion rupees, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S. Fuel costs for the quarter rose about 30 percent from a year earlier to 107.93 billion rupees.
Ahead of the results, shares in NTPC, valued at $28.8 billion, closed 0.4 percent lower at 174.05 rupees in a Mumbai market that rose 0.9 percent.
NTPC stock is up more than 8 percent this year, after losing about a fifth of its value last year. ($1 = 50.11 Indian rupees) (Reporting by Sanjeev Choudhary; Editing by Aradhana Aravindan)