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PetroChina's net profit for 2008 down 22%
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PetroChina Company Limited reported Wednesday its net profit for 2008 dropped by 22 percent from a year ago, due to fuel price caps, windfall taxes and decreased demand in the last quarter of the year.

Net profit totaled 114.431 billion yuan (US$16.75 billion)- as calculated by international accounting rules. Earnings per share in 2008 fell by 0.19 yuan per share to 0.63 yuan, the company said in a statement to the Shanghai and Hong Kong stock markets.

Zhou Jiping, vice chairman and president of PetroChina attributed the profit slump to the global financial crisis and state policy factors including higher payments of a special tax on domestic crude oil sold at more than US$40 a barrel, and national ceilings on domestically refined oil products.

"The overall development of the company maintains steady, orderly and healthy momentum despite the profit drop," said Zhou.

In 2008, PetroChina's turnover reached 1.07 trillion yuan, representing an increase of 28.1 percent from the previous year. Basic earnings per share were 0.63 yuan, approximately 0.19 yuan less than that of 2007.

The company said it received a subsidy of 15.7 billion yuan from the government for losses in oil refining. Windfall taxes on domestic crude oil for the company exceeded 85 billion yuan in 2008, 40.6 billion yuan more than in 2007.

"The performance is within market expectation," said Wang Jing, analyst with Orient Securities.

The realized crude oil price of PetroChina in 2008 was US$87.55 per barrel, up 34.1 percent from 2007.

As the most important profit contributor of PetroChina, the exploration and production segment realized an operating profit of 240.2 billion yuan in 2008, representing an increase of 15.8 percent from the previous year.

Crude oil output reached 871 million barrels, up 2.9 percent year on year. Output of marketable natural gas rose 14.5 percent from 2007 to 1.864 trillion cubic feet.

PetroChina refined 850 million barrels of crude oil in 2008, representing a year-on-year increase of 3.2 percent.

Affected by macro economic measures, which kept domestic prices of refined products at a lower level, and shrinking sales of refined products toward the end of 2008, the refining and marketing segment recorded an operating loss of 82.97 billion yuan.

The chemical and marketing segment of the company recorded an operating loss of 2.88 billion yuan, as a result of weak market demand and a drop in product prices.

The natural gas and pipeline segment has become an important profit contributor to PetroChina, with an operating profit of 16.06 billion yuan, up 28.5 percent year on year.

The company witnessed an increase of 92.10 million barrels of oil equivalent in its overseas oil and gas net production, with an increase of 50 percent from 2007 to 2008. The company's realized volume of international oil and gas trade reached 57.40 million tons, up 54.5 percent.

The company said it was expected to face severe challenges in 2009 with the deepening global financial crisis, but the capabilities for sustainable development maintained, the statement said.

Wang Jing said crude oil price will be the key factor for PetroChina's performance in 2009.

As the government launched the new pricing mechanism for refined products in 2009, which ensures profits of oil refiners, rising crude oil prices would contribute a lot to oil company's profits, she said.

PetroChina is the Hong Kong and Shanghai-listed subsidiary of China National Petroleum Corporation, China's largest oil producer.

Share prices of the company in the mainland A share market dropped by 1.70 percent to 11.57 yuan on Wednesday, while the price in the Hong Kong market dropped by 0.3 percent to 6.47 Hong Kong dollars.

(Xinhua News Agency March 26, 2009)

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