* Q4’s profit sharply higher than Q3 level
* Sinopec expects 2017 capex to increase 44 pct (Adds detail)
By Dominique Patton
BEIJING, March 26 (Reuters) - China Petroleum and Chemical Corp on Sunday reported that 2016 net profit rose 44 percent to 46.4 billion yuan ($6.74 billion) from a year earlier on the back of strong performances in refining and chemicals.
The state-owned company, known as Sinopec Corp, saw fourth quarter net profit jump to 17.25 billion yuan from 9.9 billion yuan in the third quarter, it said in a statement to the Shanghai Stock Exchange.
For 2015, Asia’s largest refiner reported total net profit of 32.3 billion yuan.
Sinopec said that in 2016, oil and gas production fell 8.6 percent to 431.29 million barrels of oil equivalent (BOE), versus 471.91 million a year earlier.
Crude oil production was down 13.2 percent to 303.5 million BOE as near-decade low oil prices forced the closures of costly wells, while natural gas rose 4.3 percent.
Refinery throughput fell 0.4 percent compared with 2015 to 235.5 million tonnes, or about 4.71 million bpd.
Its total fuel sales grew 2.9 percent.
Fuel demand growth in China, the world’s second-largest consumer, moderated along with the broader economy. But domestic competition heated up following moves to allow more than a dozen independent refineries to import crude oil for the first time since late 2015.
The chemicals segment recorded a strong performance as the firm optimised production to favour higher-value products, a trend Sinopec expects to boost profitability in the coming years.
The company said it expects global oil prices to fluctuate at lower levels this year, while domestic oil products would continue to grow and the consumption structure would be further adjusted.
Sinopec plans to boost capital expenditure in 2017 to 110.2 billion yuan, up 44 percent from last year’s 76.46 billion yuan. This year’s refinery throughput is set to reach 240 million tonnes, and production of oil products will reach 150 million tonnes. ($1 = 6.8803 Chinese yuan) (Reporting by Dominique Patton and Zeng Xiangjin; Editing by Richard Borsuk)