Gas giant unveils 70 per cent profits rise

Oil and gas explorer BG Group became the latest beneficiary of soaring prices after unveiling first-quarter profits of £1.4 billion.

The 70 per cent hike was mainly due to "higher commodity prices" and increased production levels in a "excellent start" to 2008, the company said.

The results come a day after oil giants Royal Dutch Shell and BP posted combined profits of £7.2 billion for the first three months of the year, angering motorists.

The glut of profits has been fuelled by a record run for oil prices peaking at almost 120 dollars a barrel this week.

This has been driven by supply concerns following attacks on pipelines in Nigeria, as well as traders looking to buy oil to hedge against a weakening dollar as the US economy struggles.

But the huge earnings will strike a raw nerve with households hit by price hikes from the UK's "big six" energy firms, who ratcheted up bills within a few weeks of each other earlier this year. The move prompted the Office of Fair Trading to launch an investigation in February.

BG's exploration and production division saw profits rise 50 per cent to £942 million on the surging oil prices, aided by higher production from the UK's Buzzard field and its interests in India.

The group's liquefied natural gas (LNG) businesses were meanwhile bolstered by rising international gas prices which helped treble earnings to £383 million.

Chief executive Frank Chapman said: "BG Group has made an excellent start to the year driven by increased production volumes, higher commodity prices and strong first-quarter performance in LNG."

BG also has a 30 per cent stake in the the consortium buoyed by the recent discovery of what could be the world third's biggest oil field off the coast of Brazil.

Shares in the firm soared earlier this month after the head of Brazil's national oil agency said the Carioca field in the Santos Basin could hold reserves of around 33 billion barrels of oil.

Image: Gas price hikes have significantly bolstered BG Group's profits

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