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China Petroleum & Chemical Corp, known as Sinopec, reported a 9.9 per cent decline in 2023 net profit on Sunday, weighed by falling oil and gas prices but supported by recovering fuel demand.

The world’s largest oil refiner by capacity posted net income of 60.5-billion yuan ($11.5-billion), based on Chinese accounting standards, in a filing to the Shanghai stock exchange.

Sinopec faced a “complicated operating environment and intense competition” last year, it said in a statement to Reuters.

That was slightly worse than 2022, when the company recorded a 6.9 per cent decline in net income as COVID-19 curbs hit fuel and chemicals demand.

Aviation fuel and gasoline, however, led a post-lockdown demand recovery last year as passenger air traffic surged and people drove more in China.

The state oil and gas major’s gasoline sales rose 14.3 per cent and diesel 6.4 per cent. Aviation fuel sales expanded by 49.5 per cent.

The figures include sales into the domestic market as well as exports. Refiners in 2023 cashed in robust export profits with strong growth in overseas shipments of diesel and jet fuel.

Refinery throughput rose 6.3 per cent last year to a record 257.52 million tonnes, or about 5.15 million barrels per day. The company forecast a rise to 260 million tonnes this year.

Sinopec expects its crude oil production to dip to 279.06 million barrels this year from 280.23 million barrels in 2023, while natural gas rises to 1,380 billion cubic feet from 1,292 billion cubic feet. Its petrochemical business, however, remained lacklustre with sales of chemical fibres and plastics down 1.8 per cent.

Sinopec plans capital spending of 173 billion yuan this year to cover key investments such as exploration and development, down from 176.8 billion yuan last year.

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