The national oil company said favourable crude oil prices also boosted its revenue for the April to June quarter, helping it to rise by 24.6% to RM73bil against RM58.6mil posted a year ago.
Petronas said its higher product prices were, however, partially negated by the strengthening of ringgit against the US dollar.
In its notes to the accounts, Petronas revealed that shareholders had approved a tax exempt financial dividend amounting to RM22bil for the financial year ended March 31, 2011, which is paid between June and November 2011.
“In a nutshell, we had a good run in the first quarter. The turmoil in the Middle East created a fear premium' to crude oil prices,” president and chief executive officer Datuk Shamsul Azhar Abbas said at a briefing to announce its financial results yesterday.
Despite the strong first quarter financial performance, Petronas issued a profit warning for the remaining quarters for the year moving into 2012.
“Based on the July numbers, the economy is heading into a slowdown in the second quarter and this is expected to continue into next year. We had a good run during the first quarter but I think the party is over now,” Shamsul said.
In March, Petronas announced that it was changing its financial year end from March 31 to Dec 31, thereby having only a nine month period for its 2011 financial year.
Shamsul said Petronas would be happy if it could get RM60bil to RM70bil in profit before tax for FY2011, relying on what Petronas earned in the same period last year.
“For the nine months last year, we made about RM60bil in profit before tax. So far we've got RM30.9bil in this first quarter, which makes up about half of what we got for the whole nine months of last year. There're two more quarters to go but we are seeing some weakness in the numbers,” he added.
During the first quarter, Petronas realised an average weighted crude oil price of US$122.26 a barrel, compared with US$76.14 per barrel in the preceding quarter.
“Our main worry is demand destruction due to the economic slowdown in the US and Europe,” Shamsul said.
On the recently announced RM15bil gas exploration project, North Malay Basin, Shamsul said Petronas was expected to start the first gas in early 2013 and would ramp up the capacity by 2015.
It plans to partner its existing production-sharing contract partner Hess Corp of the US to develop the North Malay Basin project to cater to the growing domestic demand.
Shamsul said the shortfall of gas supply had been there for years and the “cheap gas” had led to higher demand for gas.
He said the country's reliance on subsidised gas had somehow limited users from pursuing efficiency and that something had to be done to change the current mentality on subsidised gas.
He said Petronas had subsidised gas to the tune of RM20bil a year and added that the recently-announced upward price revision for gas prices was a step in the right direction.
On the hefty net loss suffered by its unit, Prince Court Medical Centre Sdn Bhd, Datuk Anuar Ahmad (executive vice-president, gas & power business) said the hospital was a new facility and hopefully it can turn profitable going forward.
He said other private hospitals had suffered a similar fate during start-up years and the group did not expect the hospital to turn profitable this year or the next.
It was reported that Prince Court Medical Centre suffered a net loss of RM451mil for the financial year ended April 2010 and a loss of RM203mil the year before.
Asked if Petronas would sell the hospital, Shamsul said “no” and that the hospital was showing improvement.