RELIANCE INDUSTRIES GAINS
A sharp recovery in margins at its core oil refining business helped Mukesh Ambani's Reliance Industries counteract continuing difficulties in its smaller oil and gas exploration division.
The boost in gross refining margins to $9.3 per barrel compared with $7.6 per barrel the quarter before, helped India's largest company by market capitalisation produce results broadly in line with expectations.
Reliance saw fourth-quarter net profits come in flat at Rs56.31bn ($933m), a 0.8 per cent rise from same period a year earlier. Analysts had been looking for a net profit of Rs56.62bn, according to Reuters data.
Mr Ambani, while describing the year as satisfying, said the "refining business delivered the highest ever profits with a sharp recovery in GRMs towards the end of the year".
However, the energy and petrochemicals-focused conglomerate's oil and gas division continued to underperform and recorded a steep drop in earnings from the previous quarter. The fall damped enthusiasm generated by the surprise increase in gross refining margins.
More broadly, the results come at a time of high political risk for Reliance and its oil and gas division in particular, with the company most recently issuing a legal notice against the authors of a book accusing the company of "crony capitalism" in relation to a large gasfield it operates with British oil group BP.
The move marked the latest controversy faced by Reliance relating to its gasfields off India's east coast, including a dispute over gas production levels that has seen Mr Ambani's company accused of excessive political influence by campaigners during the country's national election.
Allegations have circled around a planned increase in the regulated price of gas produced from Reliance's field, which India's election commission postponed last month until after the completion of voting in mid-May. The higher price would have provided a boost to Reliance.
A Mumbai based analyst speaking on condition of anonymity said that, "given Reliance's stronghold in Delhi they will get their way eventually but the timing and size of the hike remain uncertain".
Reliance shares have been performing well over the past month, up 8.2 per cent to Rs959.10, as hopes of an economic turnround under the resurgent opposition Bharatiya Janata party and presumptive next prime minister Narendra Modi, grow.
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BP and its partners in Azerbaijan's giant ACG oil production complex agreed Thursday to extend the production sharing contract by 25 years to 2049 and to increase the stake of state-owned SOCAR, reducing the size of their own shares.
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