PetroChina to ramp up oil and gas E&P despite lower fourth-quarter earnings

PetroChina's logo is seen at its petrol station in Beijing, China, March 21, 2016. Picture taken March 21, 2016. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon/File Photo

BEIJING (Reuters) - China’s largest oil producer PetroChina is ramping up its spending on oil and gas exploration, despite a sharp drop in fourth quarter profit.

PetroChina reported 4.8 billion yuan in net profit in the fourth quarter of 2017, the worst quarterly result last year and down from 6.7 billion yuan in the third quarter, a company filing showed on Thursday.

Total revenue rose to 558 billion yuan in the three months from October to December, compared with 482 billion yuan in the third quarter, the filing showed.

Huang Lili, an analyst with CITIC Securities, attributed the lower earnings to losses made in the import business of liquefied natural gas (LNG).

PetroChina made deeper losses in LNG imports in the fourth quarter when China suffered a severe gas shortage, Huang said, adding PetroChina would increase spending to lift gas output.

The company said it would spend 167.6 billion yuan to develop oil and natural gas fields in regions such as the Songliang Basin, the Tarim Basin and Chongqing amid worries about dwindling crude production and surging natural gas demand.

For the full year, PetroChina raked in a total of 2.016 trillion yuan in revenue, rebounding from a four-year low in 2016 and meeting the company’s expectation.

PetroChina recommended a cash dividend of 0.06 yuan per share for 2017.

Reporting by Meng Meng and Aizhu Chen; Editing by Mark Potter