Oil & Natural Gas Corp., India’s biggest energy explorer, posted a 71 percent increase in fourth-quarter profit, beating estimates, as crude oil prices rose.
Net income climbed to 37.8 billion rupees ($815 million) in the three months ended March 31 from 22.1 billion rupees a year earlier, the New Delhi-based company said in a statement to the Bombay Stock Exchange today. The median of 19 analysts estimates compiled by Bloomberg was a profit of 34.8 billion rupees.
Higher profit will help state-owned ONGC invest in aging fields in India and buy assets overseas as it seeks to offset diminishing production at home. The explorer may add $1 billion in revenue annually after the government more than doubled the price of natural gas sold from fields awarded before 1999.
“The primary reason for higher profit is the higher realization from crude sales,” Niraj Mansingka, a Mumbai-based analyst with Edelweiss Capital Ltd., said before the earnings were announced. “This and with higher gas prices, they will be able to invest more in older fields.”
The explorer sold crude oil at $51.42 a barrel in the quarter, compared with $43.40 a year earlier, ONGC said in a statement.
Oil averaged $80.61 in New York trading in the three months ended March 2010, compared with $58.88 a barrel a year earlier as demand for energy picked up after economies recovered from the recession.
ONGC gained 0.8 percent to 1,132.05 rupees in Mumbai trading, the highest level since Feb. 4, compared with a 1.2 percent increase in the benchmark Sensitive Index. The earnings were announced after the markets closed.
The producer of almost 25 percent of the crude oil used by Asia’s third-largest energy-consuming nation had a subsidy bill of 50 billion rupees in the form of discounts given to state refiners in the quarter, compared with 8.52 billion a year earlier, according to the statement.
Indian state refiners including Indian Oil Corp., the second-largest, sell automobile and cooking fuels below cost to help curb inflation in the world’s second-fastest growing major economy. State-owned companies including ONGC, Oil India Ltd. and GAIL India Ltd., the monopoly gas distributor, bear the losses on gasoline and diesel.
ONGC is spending about $3.3 billion to increase production from its domestic oil fields, Chairman R.S. Sharma told shareholders in September. Production may rise to 28 million metric tons of oil by March 2013 from about 25 million tons last fiscal year, he said.
ONGC may spend about 86 billion rupees on fields abroad in 2010-11, R.S. Butola, managing director of ONGC Videsh Ltd., ONGC’s overseas investment unit, said Jan. 21. That’s 23 percent more than 70 billion rupees in the previous year, he said.
The company plans to get the equivalent of 60 million tons of oil, or more than double its output in India, from overseas fields by 2025.