* Profit rises 32 pct on strong revenue, prices
* Angola LNG project first exports delayed to May
* Company in talks with BP, Eni, Total on new refinery
LISBON, Feb 24 (Reuters) - Angolan state oil firm Sonangol posted a 32 percent rise in net profit in 2011, as strong revenues on the back of high oil prices more than offset weak output, state news agency Angop cited the company’s new chief executive as saying on Friday.
Francisco de Lemos Jose Maria told a press briefing that net profit came in at $3.32 billion, up from $2.52 billion in 2010, Angop reported.
Sonangol is the main player in the oil sector in Angola, Africa’s second-largest oil producer after Nigeria. The company also has exploration activities in Iraq, Venezuela and Brazil.
Jose Maria added that Angola’s crude production fell to 1.66 million barrels per day (mbpd) last year from 1.76 mbpd in 2010.
Sonangol’s direct production fell 6.9 percent, while production by international oil companies dropped 18.2 percent, Angop quoted the CEO as saying.
Angola’s oil production fell short of estimates last year due to technical problems at some fields and maintenance at others, leading the government to cut its economic growth estimate for 2011 to 3.4 percent from an initial 7.6 percent.
With fields coming back on line and new projects ramping up production, the government expects output to rebound this year to 1.8 mbpd and help the economy expand 12.8 percent.
Jose Maria, who was appointed CEO when his predecessor Manuel Vicente moved to a key job in government last month, said Sonangol’s sales came in at $33.78 billion in 2011, a 14 percent increase, due to higher oil prices in international markets.
Angop also cited Sonangol board member Mateus Morais de Brito as saying the exports of liquefied natural gas from the Angola LNG project would start in May, rather than in March, due to the need to make further tests at the plant.
The 5.2 million tonnes per annum project is led by Sonangol, which has a 22.8 percent interest and Chevron, which holds 36.4 percent. Italy’s Eni, France’s Total and BP each hold a stake of 13.6 percent.
Sonangol board member Ana Bela Fonseca said the company’s Luanda refinery posted a 26 percent rise in output last year to 41,600 barrels per day.
Still, the refinery does not have sufficient capacity for market demands and Sonangol’s imports of refined product rose 15 percent to 3.27 million tonnes in 2011.
Angola’s plans for a new refinery, located in the port city of Lobito in southern Angola and originally expected to be ready by 2011, have been delayed as the country struggled to find foreign partners and fincancing for the $8 billion project.
Angop quoted Bela Fonseca as saying “negotiations are ongoing with Eni, Total and BP, with talks with Eni at a more advanced stage.”