PetroChina: Still Pumping Out the Profits

Let me first say right off the bat that PetroChina (NYSE: PTR  ) remains my favorite integrated play in the oil sector, more so than Western majors such as ExxonMobil (NYSE: XOM  ) , BP Group (NYSE: BP  ) , or even Motley Fool Income Investor pick Total (NYSE: TOT  ) .

I know that some investors might find it strange that I'm so enamored of a Chinese state-owned company subject to the whims of a technically Communist government, but those perceived "weakness" are the very reason I like the company. Simply put, PetroChina is the largest player in the world's fastest-growing economy (where oil demand growth is expected to grow by 6.5% this year alone), has the implicit backing of the government, and is able -- due to its association with the government -- to gain access to oil fields unavailable to Western companies. This ability was amply illustrated by the recent agreement that its parent CNPC signed with Venezuela's bad-boy president Hugo Chavez to jointly develop a number of fields in that country.

PetroChina is not too shabby on the operating front either, as evidenced by its recent results. For the first half of fiscal 2006, the company reported revenue of $40.9 billion, up 25% over the previous year's period. This growth was driven by a 1.8% increase in oil production and a 31% jump in natural gas output (not to mention the 21% increase in the price of crude over the past six months).

Net profit came in at $10.1 billion, a 29% increase over 2005, and slightly ahead of Street expectations. More impressively, this gain came despite the fact that PetroChina reported a loss of $1.7 billion from refining operations, double that of last year, and was also hit by a special government windfall tax of approximately $1.3 billion.

In my Foolish opinion, the company's stated goal of increasing oil and gas production by at least 5% annually through 2010 is achievable (in the first half, oil and natural gas output rose 6.8%). Increased emphasis on natural gas production (it just announced plans to expand capacity at its major natural gas pipeline by 50%) and the opportunity for overseas growth (PetroChina's overseas assets currently account for only 5.7% of its crude production and 3.1% of its natural gas output) will make these goals possible.

Given these factors, I believe that investors should hold onto their shares of PetroChina and use any weakness in the stock to top off their portfolios.

If you're looking for more great energy plays, check outMotley Fool Income Investor, where Mathew Emmert and his team are always digging up promising stocks with dynamic dividends. Now you can sign up today for a free30-day guest pass.

Fool contributorWill Frankenhoffdoes not own shares in any of the companies mentioned above. The Fool has adisclosure policy.


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