Friday, November 9, 2007

PetroChina's Value Tops $1 Trillion

PetroChina's Value Tops $1 Trillion, Surpassing Exxon
By Ying Lou

Nov. 5 (Bloomberg) -- PetroChina Co. almost tripled on its first day of trading in Shanghai, becoming the world's first company to be valued at $1 trillion, more than Exxon Mobil Corp. and General Electric Co. combined.

PetroChina shares rose to 43.96 yuan from the sale price of 16.7 yuan, giving the state-owned oil producer a greater market value than the entire Russian stock market.

The rally makes PetroChina shares four times more expensive than those of Exxon, even though China's biggest oil producer has a quarter of the revenue. China's stock market was valued at less than $1.1 trillion before tripling this year and giving the communist nation four of the world's 10 biggest companies, even after today's 5 percent tumble in Hong Kong stocks.

PetroChina's valuation is ``an indication of China coming of age and also of its stock market bubble,'' said Hugh Young, who oversees $50 billion at Aberdeen Asset Management Asia Ltd. in Singapore.

The oil producer's Shanghai listing pushes China's stock market beyond the U.K. as the world's third-largest. PetroChina trades at 55 times earnings, four times Exxon's ratio of 13 times earnings and near the 58 times for Google Inc., the world's most-used Internet search engine.

In Hong Kong, PetroChina fell 8.2 percent to HK$18. Exxon shares rose 0.7 percent to $87.93, valuing the company at $488 billion on the New York Stock Exchange.

`Sense of Responsibility'

``I feel very excited today and also feel a very strong sense of responsibility,'' Chairman Jiang Jiemin said at the Shanghai Stock Exchange. ``This is PetroChina returning to our investors and society.''

Jiang struck a gong as the market opened at 9:30 a.m., then toasted the start of trading with a glass of red wine.

China's largest oil and gas producer had 20.5 billion barrels of oil and gas reserves in 2006, compared with 22.1 billion for Irving, Texas-based Exxon, data compiled by Bloomberg show. PetroChina has been adding new reserves at an average annual rate of 5 percent for the past three years, a faster pace than Exxon, Royal Dutch Shell Plc and BP Plc, the world's largest oil companies by sales.

The share sale, the world's biggest this year, surpassed the 66.6 billion yuan raised by China Shenhua Energy Co. in September. PetroChina raised 66.8 billion yuan selling 4 billion shares last week as investors applied for more than 3.3 trillion yuan of stock, almost 50 times the amount PetroChina sold.

Record Oil

Those investors were until now prevented from directly buying PetroChina stock, missing out on a 15-fold surge as economic growth turned the nation into the largest oil consumer after the U.S. and as crude prices reached a record $96.24 a barrel in New York.

The CSI 300 Index of shares listed on the Shanghai and Shenzhen exchanges has increased about 170 percent this year as mainland Chinese investors seek returns on $2.3 trillion of savings, raising investor concerns that the market is too expensive.

Billionaire investor Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway Inc. sold its stake in PetroChina this year, reaping an eightfold gain that contributed to a 64 percent increase in third-quarter profit for the Omaha, Nebraska-based company. Berkshire had 2.34 billion shares as of the end of 2006, the largest holding after state-owned China National Petroleum Corp.

Buffett said on Oct. 24 that Chinese share prices have risen too fast.

`Carried Away'

``It's easy to be carried away in the stock market when things are going very well,'' he said in the northern Chinese city of Dalian. ``We at Berkshire never buy stocks when we see prices soaring.''

Gains in PetroChina's shares in Shanghai may have more to do with Chinese investors seeking better returns than the outlook for the company's exploration and production operations, or its refining business, known as downstream, said Larry Grace, an oil analyst at Kim Eng Securities Co. in Hong Kong.

``Production is static with limited upside for the next three to four years,'' Grace said. ``As for the downstream, the price controls and overall regulatory trend limit the company's earnings.''

China controls fuel prices to shield consumers in the world's most-populous nation from accelerating inflation. The policy limits the ability of PetroChina and China Petroleum & Chemical Corp. to pass on the burden of higher crude oil costs.

The other Chinese companies that rank among the world's 10 largest by market value are China Petroleum, known as Sinopec, China Mobile Ltd., Industrial & Commercial Bank of China Ltd. and China Construction Bank Corp.

``A-share prices don't reflect global benchmarks of value,'' said Lorraine Tan, head of equity research at Standard & Poor's Investment Services in Singapore. ``There should be other measures of a company's position, including revenue and profitability. Market cap is not necessarily accurate.''

PetroChina's share surge means it beat by years a Russian pledge to create the world's largest company.

OAO Gazprom, Russia's natural gas export monopoly, would become the world's largest company by market value and top $1 trillion in ``seven to 10 years,'' Alexander Medvedev, the company's deputy chief executive officer, said in April. Gazprom's market valuation today is $296 billion.

To contact the reporter on this story: Ying Lou in Shanghai at .

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