* Net profit rises to 33.9 billion yuan vs 29.5 billion
* Says expects oil price to fluctuate at high levels
* PetroChina says aims to make Athabasca payment soon
(Adds details on Athabasca payment, shale gas development)
By Charlie Zhu
HONG KONG, Aug 28 PetroChina
, the country's top oil and gas producer
which also owns refineries, posted a 15 percent rise in
second-quarter profit, partly due to higher upstream earnings
and improved refining margins.
Second-quarter net profit rose to 33.9 billion yuan ($5.5
billion) in April-June from 29.5 billion yuan a year earlier,
according to Reuters calculations based on PetroChina's
first-half results released on Thursday.
That compares with an average forecast of 33.2 billion yuan
by six analysts polled by Thomson Reuters.
PetroChina said it expected oversupply to persist in the
domestic oil product market in the second half of the year and
forecast oil prices would be volatile.
"The mild recovery of the global economy will remain highly
uncertain in the second half of 2014 and the global oil price is
still likely to fluctuate at high levels," chairman Zhou Jiping
said in an earnings statement.
"It is expected that the domestic economy will continue to
develop at a reasonable pace, while downward pressure on the
economy still exists."
The state-run oil giant said first-half capital spending
fell 15.8 percent on the year to 91.1 billion yuan.
It said in March it would cut capital spending for the
second consecutive year in 2014 as it sought to boost
shareholder returns in the midst of a massive corruption probe.
PetroChina and its parent firm, China National Petroleum
Corp (CNPC), are at the centre of one of the biggest corruption
investigations into the Chinese state sector in years, launched
by the government more than half a year ago.
The Beijing-based company recorded a first-half operating
profit of 4.36 billion yuan for its refining operations, up from
a loss of 7.77 billion yuan in the same period in 2013.
Its overseas oil and gas output reached 67.1 million
barrels, little changed from a year earlier.
Speaking at an earnings briefing, PetroChina vice chairman
and president Wang Dongjin said its production in Iraq, a major
source of its overseas output, had been disrupted by activities
of Islamic State militants.
When asked when PetroChina will make payment of more than $1
billion for a 40 percent stake in the Dover oil sands project
from Canadian firm Athabasca Oil Corp, Wang said: "It
(the payment) will be made soon."
PetroChina was supposed to have completed the acquisition in
June, but delayed payment amid the government-led corruption
investigation into the Chinese company.
The investigation, part of a nationwide anti-corruption
campaign led by Chinese President Xi Jinping, is still ongoing
and there are no signs it will end soon.
The company also said on Thursday it had earmarked 7 billion
yuan for shale gas development this year and plans to drill 154
shale gas wells in 2014 and 2015.
PetroChina aims to have production capacity of 1.5 billion
cubic metres by the end of 2015.
(1 US dollar = 6.1424 Chinese yuan)
(Additional reporting by Twinnie Siu and Anne Marie Roantree;
Editing by Miral Fahmy and David Clarke)