RIL posts surprise 24 pct surge in quarter profit

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MUMBAI, India (AP) — India's Reliance Industries posted a surprise 24 percent surge in December quarter profits Friday, on unexpectedly strong refining margins and solid demand for petrochemicals.

Net profit for the October to December quarter was 55.0 billion rupees ($1.0 billion), a turnaround after four quarters of sliding profits. Revenues rose 10 percent from a year earlier, to 963.1 billion rupees ($17.9 billion).

"RIL's performance has improved in this quarter with margin expansion in petrochemicals and record earnings in the refining business," chairman Mukesh Ambani said in a statement. He pledged to invest over a trillion rupees ($18.6 billion) to upgrade the company's petrochemical and refining businesses, which he said would "secure a significant change in RIL's earning capacity."

Growth of 12 percent in RIL's petrochemicals business, which accounts for nearly a quarter of sales, made up for a 32 percent slump in oil and gas revenue due to weak production.

Gross refining margins rose to $9.6 a barrel during the quarter, the highest since April, beating an expected slide to $8.7 a barrel.

"They really delivered excellent on the refining front," analyst S.P. Tulsian told CNBC-TV18.

Analysts polled by FactSet had forecast net profit of 51.0 billion rupees ($945 million) on sales of 914.3 billion rupees ($17.0 billion).

The stock rose more than 1 percent in Mumbai trade Friday in advance of the announcement, which came after market hours.

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