CNOOC Ltd, China's biggest offshore oil producer, may post first-half profit growth more than double that of PetroChina Co and Royal Dutch Shell Plc after selling more crude to meet diesel demand from factories and farmers.
Net income probably rose 85 percent from a year earlier to 23 billion yuan ($3.4 billion), according to the median estimate of six analysts compiled by Bloomberg. CNOOC is set to outperform PetroChina and China Petroleum & Chemical Corp because it doesn't turn crude into fuels as its larger domestic rivals do and isn't constrained by government caps on fuel prices, analysts including UOB-Kay Hian Ltd's Wang Aochao said.
Chairman Fu Chengyu expanded CNOOC's overseas oil and gas interests beyond Australia, Africa and Southeast Asia this year with the $3.1 billion purchase of a stake in Argentina's Bridas Corp to help boost output by as much as 28 percent. Exxon Mobil Corp is forecasting production growth of up to 4 percent in 2010, while Shell expects volumes to be on par with last year.
"What marks CNOOC from its rivals is strong production growth," said Wang, UOB-Kay Hian's head of China energy research in Shanghai. "We may not see 25 percent increases in production every year, but the company forecasts output could be rising up to 10 percent a year by 2015, which is impressive."
The output targets are achievable because much of China's offshore oil and gas reserves are still untapped, Wang said. In the first quarter, CNOOC made five offshore discoveries and started pumping crude at three fields in Bohai Bay and the South China Sea, out of the nine planned for the year.
The shares climbed 19 percent in Hong Kong trading in the past 12 months, outperforming Shell's 12 percent gain in London and Exxon's 13 percent decline in New York. PetroChina fell 4.1 percent in Hong Kong while China Petroleum dropped 7.8 percent. The benchmark Hang Seng Index advanced 1 percent.
'Squeezing Its Assets'
For the full year, CNOOC may report a 48 percent increase in profit to 43.8 billion yuan as oil prices rise, according to a median estimate of 15 analysts surveyed by Bloomberg. Crude gained 50 percent in the first six months to average $78 a barrel compared with a year earlier. Oil and gas production accounts for 99 percent of the company's income.
"CNOOC is really squeezing its assets hard as it increases production," said Laban Yu, an energy analyst at Macquarie Hong Kong Ltd. "The growing output is part of the government's policy of finding the energy assets the country needs."
The Bridas stake purchase marks CNOOC's entry in Latin America and tops the $2.7 billion it paid in 2006 for a share in a Nigerian oilfield. The acquisition, completed in May, will expand the Chinese company's production by an average of 46,000 barrels a day, or about 16.8 million barrels a year.
Fu, 59, chairman since 2003 and holder of a master degree in petroleum engineering from the University of Southern California, aims to boost Cnooc's output to 290 million barrels of oil equivalent this year.
Twenty-four out of 33 analysts surveyed by Bloomberg rate CNOOC a "Buy," while five have a "Hold" recommendation.
Shell, based in The Hague, posted a 35 percent increase in first-half profit, while Exxon, the world's largest company by market value, recorded a gain of 63 percent, according to Bloomberg data.
PetroChina, whose exploration and production accounted for 69 percent of its operating income last year, may report a 36 percent growth in first-half profit, a Bloomberg survey of nine analysts shows.
China Petroleum, deriving 62 percent of its 2009 operating income from refining and marketing, likely had a 2 percent drop in profit during that period, according to 10 analysts. Domestic fuel prices remained capped by the state to control inflation while the cost of crude rose, eroding earnings from processing crude into oil products.
The company known as Sinopec sold 82 million metric tons of diesel last year, 48 percent more than PetroChina, to supply the world's fastest-growing major economy. Gasoline sales of the two companies totaled 61 million tons, according to their annual reports.
CNOOC is due to announce its first-half earnings on Aug 19, Sinopec on Aug 22, and PetroChina on Aug 26.