India's Reliance Industries Q4 profit jumps 32%

Reliance Industries, India's biggest private firm, reported Tuesday a better-than-expected 32 percent rise in quarterly net profit as higher refining margins offset slowing output from offshore fields.

The energy giant, controlled by India's wealthiest man Mukesh Ambani, said in a statement consolidated net profit rose to 55.89 billion rupees ($1.02 billion) in the three months ended March from 42.36 billion rupees a year ago.

The earnings overshot analysts' expectations of a 54.8-billion-rupee profit.

"The growth in earnings was largely driven by strong and improved refining margins during the year," Ambani said.

Reliance's gross refining margins (GRMs) for the fourth quarter rose 33 percent to $10.1 a barrel from $7.6 levels a year earlier.

Turnover, however, slid 1.1 percent to 842 billion rupees for the quarter.

Analysts have been concerned in recent months about Reliance's ability to raise gas production from its blocks off India's east coast.

Crude oil production from Reliance's main oil field KG-D6 fell 41 percent year-on-year to 2.91 million barrels of crude oil.

Natural gas production fell 39 percent to 336 billion cubic feet (BCF), over levels a year earlier.

In 2011, British energy giant BP paid $7.2 billion to acquire a 30 percent stake in 21 of Reliance's oil and gas fields.

Reliance hopes that BP's deepwater drilling expertise will give the Indian giant the skills to develop hard-to-exploit reserves and find more oil.

Reliance operates the world's largest oil-processing complex in Jamnagar, where two adjacent refineries have a combined capacity to process 1.24 million barrels of oil a day.

The company added it was still expanding its retail operations and now operates more than 1,450 stores in 129 cities across the country.

Reliance has built up a war chest for acquisitions, with cash reserves of more than 829 billion rupees ($15.3 billion) as of the March-end quarter.

The energy behemoth has been scouting for acquisitions and looking to diversify its revenue sources by expanding into financial services, retailing, hotels and communications.

Ambani has also announced a foray into the Indian media sector as well as media and telecom.

Earlier this month, Mukesh and younger brother Anil, who fought a very public feud for spoils of their father's business empire, signed a $220-million deal in the first tangible sign of a corporate reconciliation.

Reliance Jio Infocomm, the telecom unit of Reliance Industries, signed the agreement with Reliance Communications, the flagship firm of the Anil Ambani group, to share their fibre-optic communications networks.