Oil report

UPDATE 2-Nigeria's state oil company turns a profit for first time, president says

(Adds NNPC comment)

ABUJA, Aug 26 (Reuters) - The Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) has made a profit for the first time in its 44-year history, generating an income of 287 billion naira ($698 million) after tax in 2020, President Muhammadu Buhari said on Thursday.

Buhari, who also holds the title of minister of petroleum resources, gave no explanation for the state company’s swing to profit in 2020, a year when the economic shock caused by the global COVID-19 pandemic triggered a slump in the oil price.

At a virtual briefing in Abuja, NNPC’s chief Mele Kyari said the oil company saw opportunities to cut cost, improve efficiency as well as lower borrowing rates, he said explaining the profit figure, without providing details.

“This development is consistent with this administration’s commitment to ensuring prudent management of resources and maximisation of value for the Nigerian people from their natural resources,” Buhari said in a statement.

NNPC, which operates joint production ventures with Western oil majors and is also involved in refining and marketing petroleum products, made losses of 803 billion naira ($1.95 billion) in 2018 and 1.7 billion naira in 2019 but has otherwise released few details of its finances for most of its history.

Anti-corruption campaigners have long asked for NNPC to be more transparent, and last year it published audited 2019 accounts of 20 of its subsidiaries in what it said was a historical first.

A spokesperson for Buhari said NNPC would share the audited financial reports. They were not immediately available on the NNPC website.

An NNPC spokesperson said he would try and make the reports available online by Friday.

Kyari said its board will decide on whether to declare a dividend or increase capital reserves with the profit. ($1 = 411.0000 naira) (Reporting by Felix Onuah and Libby George; writing by Estelle Shirbon; Editing by Susan Fenton and Lisa Shumaker)