Cnooc First-Quarter Sales Climb 13% on Higher Oil Production

Cnooc Ltd., China’s biggest offshore energy explorer, posted a 13 percent gain in first-quarter sales as higher output helped counter a slump in the price of oil.

Oil and gas sales rose to 55.3 billion yuan ($8.97 billion) in the three months ended March 31, the Beijing-based company said in a statement yesterday. Output rose 17 percent from a year earlier to 93.6 million barrels of oil equivalent. Cnooc, which gets most of its income from oil and gas production, didn’t report first-quarter profit.

Cnooc drilled for more oil in fields from Iraq to Texas and successfully appraised six offshore wells in China in the quarter. Three of those wells are in the Penglai 15-2 field in northeast China’s Bohai Bay. The purchase of Canadian explorer Nexen Inc. earlier this year also added to Cnooc’s output and may help it upgrade its 2013 production target, Chief Financial Officer Zhong Hua said in an earnings conference call yesterday.

“They continue to have success with the drill bit with five new discoveries in the first quarter,” said Neil Beveridge, head analyst for Asia-Pacific oil and gas at Sanford C. Bernstein & Co. in Hong Kong. “It looks like there could be a good discovery at Penglai 15-2.”

The Chinese explorer’s shares have fallen 12 percent in Hong Kong trading in the past year, compared with an 8.4 percent gain in the benchmark Hang Seng Index. Cnooc fell 0.3 percent to close at HK$14.40 yesterday. The earnings were announced after the close of markets.

Production Target

The company’s average realized oil price was $110.29, down 8.7 percent from the same period last year.

Cnooc has forecast a production increase of as much as 1.6 percent to 348 million barrels this year. It expects Nexen to add 69.3 million barrels of oil equivalent to its output this year.

First-quarter profit at China Petroleum & Chemical Corp., Asia’s biggest refiner, rose 25 percent from a year ago to 16.7 billion yuan, while net income at PetroChina Co., the country’s biggest energy producer, in the period fell 8 percent to 36 billion yuan, according to stock exchange statements on April 25.

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