BANGKOK, May 12 (Reuters) - PTT Pcl, Thailand's largest energy company, on Thursday said its first-quarter net profit rose 5 percent mainly due to lower gas costs and reduced losses from its natural gas for vehicles (NGV) business.
The company's net profit came in at 23.67 billion baht ($669.78 million) for the January-March quarter, beating an average 21.86 billion baht forecast by 12 analysts polled by Reuters.
Overall first-quarter sales fell 25 percent to 387 billion baht due to drop in selling prices following weaker crude oil prices, while profit contributions from its refinery and petrochemical units dropped 54 percent, PTT said in a statement.
It also booked foreign exchange gains of 2.35 billion baht, 21 percent higher than a year earlier, it said.
PTT said the decline in feed gas costs, which dropped more than those in selling prices, helped boost core earnings in natural gas business and reduce losses on NGV sales.
State-controlled PTT, Thailand's sole gas supplier, has for several years been making losses on its NGV business due to a scheme to sell the fuel at government-set prices. The government floated the domestic NGV price in January, but prices to supply public transport are still fixed.
Analysts expect NGV losses to have fallen to a record low of 1.3 billion baht in the first quarter from 2.3 billion in the previous quarter. The company did not provide details of NGV's performance.
Analysts expect PTT earnings to improve in the second quarter, buoyed by lower gas costs and rising demand for power as customers crank up air conditioning as the weather gets hotter.
($1 = 35.3400 baht) (Reporting by Khettiya Jittapong. Editing by Jane Merriman)
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