* Expects sixth gas plant to start up in Q4
* Plans to sell up to 10 billion baht of bonds in Q4
* PTT shares up more than 8 pct to two-year high (Adds quotes, details)
By Pisit Changplayngam
BANGKOK, Sept 3 (Reuters) - Thailand’s top energy firm, PTT Pcl (PTT.BK), said on Friday it expected net profit in the second half of the year to be higher than the first half as its sixth gas separation plant would start up in the fourth quarter.
PTT completed the construction of the plant early this year and had initially planned to start operations in March but it was delayed due to an environmental dispute at the Map Ta Phut industrial estate, the world’s eighth-largest petrochemical hub.
The gas plant was among 74 projects at Map Ta Phut whose suspension was lifted by a court on Thursday. [ID:nSGE68118P]
“If the sixth gas plant can start up in the fourth quarter, our profit and revenue in the second half should be higher than the first half due to rising output,” Chief Financial Officer Tevin Vongvanich told Reuters.
The start-up of the $780 million gas plant will help raise feedstock supplied to PTT subsidiaries, including PTT Chemical Pcl PTTC.BK, the country’s largest olefins maker.
The start of the gas plant would help boost the run rate of PTT Chemical’s 1 million tonne ethane cracker to 100 percent from 75 percent, which should boost profits, analysts said.
On Friday, PTT shares shot up 8.2 percent to close at 291 baht, at one point hitting a two-year high of 292 baht. The broader market .SETI was 1.02 percent higher.
In the first six months of 2010, state-controlled PTT reported a net profit of 39.7 billion baht ($1.3 billion), up 45 percent from the same period last year.
PTT is the country’s sole gas supplier, operating five gas separation plants with combined capacity of about 4.9 million tonnes a year. The sixth plant will raise its capacity by 37 percent to 6.7 million tonnes.
Putthipong Punnakan, an adviser to industry minister, said the 74 projects at Map Ta Phut should resume operations within two weeks.
However, PTT will seek an operating licence from the Department of Industrial Works and then start test runs for two months at the gas plant before starting commercial operations, another PTT official said.
Earlier on Friday, Penchan Charikasem, executive vice-president for corporate finance at PTT, told reporters the energy giant planned to sell up to 10 billion baht ($321 million) in bonds in the fourth quarter to refinance debt.
The bonds would be mostly offered to existing bondholders, Penchan said, adding that a rise in domestic interest rates had had no impact on PTT’s bond plans.
PTT, which sold $500 million in bonds in the first half, had debt of about 260 billion baht, of which 30 percent is dollar-denominated, she said. ($1=31.13 Baht) (Writing by Khettiya Jittapong; Editing by Alan Raybould)