Vietnam National Oil and Gas Group (PetroVietnam) earned an pre-tax profit of 30.1 trillion VND (1.43 billion USD) in the first half of this year, an increase of 10 percent against last year, Le Minh Hong, the group's deputy general director, reported on July 9 in Hanoi.

Hong said revenues during the period reached 203 trillion VND (9.67 billion USD), up 20 percent year-on-year, while its contribution to the State budget also rose 16.6 percent to 81.2 trillion VND (3.87 billion USD).

"The group has basically completed its major targets set for this year and achieved high growth rates over the same period of last year," Hong said, attributing this result to higher prices of crude oil, which increased from 115 USD per barrel in 2011 to 123 USD per barrel this year, and the 15-per-cent rise in revenue from oil and gas services.

During January-June, oil sales reached 7.45 billion USD, up 23 percent against last year, while oil and gas service revenues totalled 109 trillion VND (5.19 billion USD).

The group's total investment value in the first six months of this year reached 40 trillion VND (1.9 billion USD).

By the end of this year, PetroVietnam estimates to earn a total pre-tax profit of 61.4 trillion VND (2.92 billion USD) and contribute 160 trillion VND (7.62 billion USD) to the State budget.

Currently, PetroVietnam invests over 5 trillion VND (238 million USD) in its non-core businesses (finance, insurance, banking and securities) and it plans to gradually withdraw from those sectors by 2015.

However, according to PetroVietnam's chairman Phung Dinh Thuc, the group's investments in finance (PetroVietnam Finance Corporation) and insurance (PetroVietnam Insurance Corporation) are necessary for its operations and the group is proposing to retain its holdings from 18-20 percent in these companies.

Also in response to concerns over low consumption of new products including ethanol and synthetic fibres, Thuc said domestic demand is low and most of ethanol products have to be exported.

"PetroVietnam has three plants producing ethanol with the total capacity of up to 300.000 litres per year, but only 9,000 litres were sold in the domestic market," Thuc said, adding if more were consumed here, Vietnam could save more US dollars from importing fuels./.