May 14 (Bloomberg) -- OMV Petrom SA, Romania’s biggest oil company, said its profit fell 4 percent in the first quarter of this year as sales dropped and the refiner paid more for exploration projects.
Net income declined to 1.33 billion lei ($400 million) from 1.38 billion lei a year ago, the Bucharest-based company said in a statement on the Bucharest Stock Exchange today. Sales shrank to 5.8 billion lei from 6 billion lei last year. Petrom shares lost 1.1 percent to 0.449 lei per share at 10:17 a.m. in Bucharest, valuing the company at about 25 billion lei.
Petrom is striving to stabilize declining oil and gas production by redeveloping mature domestic fields and searching for new off-shore resources in the Black Sea with Exxon Mobil Corp. Exploration expenses surged to 190 million lei in the first quarter from 18 million lei a year earlier.
“Going further, we will continue our significant annual investment program of more than 1 billion euros ($1.3 billion), a prerequisite to maintaining our sustainable performance, which will allow us to support potential upstream growth opportunities in the Black Sea,” Chief Executive Officer Mariana Gheorghe said in the statement.
Petrom and Exxon are conducting seismic studies for the appraisal of resources in their Neptun block in the Black Sea, after preliminary results showed a potential “significant” natural gas discovery. The three-dimensional seismic survey is expected to be completed by the end of May and further exploration is expected to start in late 2013, it said.
Earnings before interest and taxes fell 12 percent to 1.58 billion lei from 1.79 billion lei a year earlier, “influenced by intensive Black Sea seismic campaign,” Petrom said in the statement.
The Bucharest-based company also plans to drill more than 110 wells, under its exploration and production strategy for this year, according to the statement.
Petrom said it restarted its Brazi gas-fired power plant at the end of April, after a one-month shutdown to install a gas treatment plant.