* Q1 net profit 11.4 bln rgt vs 18.8 bln rgt in Q1 2014
* Maintains projection for crude prices at avg $55/barrel in 2015
* Price will be rangebound for many, many quarters- CEO (Adds details of results, CEO quotes)
By Anuradha Raghu
KUALA LUMPUR, May 22 (Reuters) - Malaysian state-owned oil firm Petronas posted a 39 percent drop in first-quarter net profit on lower crude prices, but a mild rebound in oil helped earnings bounce from the previous quarter when it made its first quarterly loss in at last five years.
Global oil prices have climbed more than 40 percent from six-year lows hit earlier this year to touch 2015 highs in early May. Prices, though, are still well-down from the peaks of June 2014, when growing evidence of a worldwide glut sent crude markets into free fall.
Petroliam Nasional Bhd, which is called Petronas, reported on Friday a net profit of 11.4 billion ringgit ($3.18 billion) for the January-March period, compared to a profit of 18.8 billion ringgit in the same period in 2014. It had suffered a net loss of 7.3 billion ringgit ($2.03 billion) in the previous quarter.
Malaysia, a net energy exporter, relies heavily on Petronas for most of its oil and gas revenue. Out of the 66 billion ringgit of oil revenues in 2014, 29 billion came in the form of dividends paid by Petronas, a government report showed.
That dividend would be cut to 26 billion ringgit in 2015, Petronas said.
The company’s revenue for the quarter was 66.2 billion ringgit against 84 billion ringgit in the prior year period.
Profit, while impacted by the lower revenue, was helped by higher processed gas trading and better LNG sales volume, Petronas said.
Petronas President and Group Chief Executive Officer Wan Zulkiflee Wan Ariffin said the company sees crude oil prices averaging $55 a barrel in 2015, maintaining a projection made three months ago.
“We think (oil) price will be range bound for many, many quarters, so we are bracing ourselves for this kind of price levels,” Wan Zulkiflee said at a press conference to announce the results.
In February, Petronas revealed plans to cut capital expenditure by 15 percent for 2015 as it copes with the slumping oil prices. Capital expenditure for 2015 would be 70 billion ringgit, after the cuts announced earlier, Petronas said.
Wan Zulkiflee also said the company would announce a “conditional” final investment decision on its proposed liquefied natural gas export terminal in Canada in the coming weeks. (Writing by Praveen Menon; Editing by Muralikumar Anantharaman)