India's Reliance reports hefty profit on energy, retail boost

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BENGALURU, Jan 21 (Reuters) - Reliance Industries Ltd (RELI.NS), India's most valuable company, on Friday posted a better-than-expected 41.6% jump in profit in the third quarter, boosted by strong performance in its oil-to-chemicals and retail businesses.

Its retail business benefited from a rebound in consumer demand in the festival season and as coronavirus-related curbs lifted towards the end of 2021, while higher refining margins and improved price realizations bolstered its mainstay energy business.

The company, led by Asia's richest man Mukesh Ambani, said its consolidated profit rose to 185.49 billion rupees ($2.50 billion) in the quarter ended Dec. 31, beating analysts' expectations of 154.74 billion rupees.

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"The recovery in global oil and energy markets supported strong fuel margins and helped our O2C (oil-to-chemicals)business deliver robust earnings," Ambani said in a statement.

Revenue from Reliance's O2C operations – comprising the world's biggest refining complex at Jamnagar, and petrochemicals plants - surged 57% to 1.31 trillion rupees, while the retail segment revenue jumped more than 52% to 577.17 billion rupees.

The company said overall revenue from operations rose 54% to 1.91 trillion rupees.

The conglomerate also recorded a one-off gain of 28.72 billion rupees from the sale of its shale gas assets.

Reliance, which produces gas from an ultra deep water block in the country's east coast, expects revenue from gas sales to rise from April.

The company expects the federal government to raise the cap on local prices of gas produced from the difficult fields to $10 per million British thermal units from April due to a spurt in global energy prices compared to the current $6.13.

However, V. Srikanth, joint chief financial officer of Reliance, said continuing higher crude prices could impact feedstock prices and downstream margins.

Net profit at Reliance's telecom unit, Jio Infocomm, rose 9.8%, while the average revenue per user (ARPU), a key performance metric, improved 8.4% to 151.6 rupees, partly helped by a tariff hike towards the end of the quarter.

The full impact of the tariff hike would likely be reflected in ARPU and financials over the next few quarters, said Kiran Thomas, Director, Jio Platforms, in the conference call.

($1 = 74.3330 Indian rupees)

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Reporting by Nallur Sethuraman, Chris Thomas and Chandini Monnappa in Bengaluru; Editing by Anil D'Silva and Arun Koyyur

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