China's Sinopec raises 2021 capital expenditure by 23.8%

* Sinopec 2021 capex at 167.2 bln yuan vs 135.1 bln yuan in 2020

* 2020 net profit down 42.9% to lowest since 2015

BEIJING, March 28 (Reuters) - China Petroleum & Chemical Corp, better known as Sinopec, plans a 23.8% increase in capital spending to 167.2 billion yuan in 2021 following recovery of oil prices and energy demand as the COVID-19 epidemic subsided.

Sinopec expects to spend 66.8 billion yuan on upstream exploration focusing on shale gas development in southwest China and construction of liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminals in coastal areas, up from 56.4 billion yuan last year.

“China’s economy is recovering and is expected to achieve relatively good growth. Demand for refined oil products is expected to recover strongly and demand for natural gas and petrochemical products will continue to grow,” the company said in a statement filed to the Shanghai Stocks Exchange on Sunday.

The company on Sunday also reported a 42.9% drop in net profit to 32.92 billion yuan last year, the lowest since 2015, as the pandemic dented fuel consumption amid months-long lockdowns.

That just beat analysts’ forecast for net profit of 32.3 billion yuan, according to IBES data from Refinitiv.

In 2020, Sinopec’s crude oil throughput fell 4.7% from a year earlier to 236.91 million tonnes, with gasoline and diesel output down 7.7% and 4.3%, respectively, while kerosene production plunged 34.6%.

Its crude oil production was 280.22 million barrels in 2020, down 1.4% year-on-year, and natural gas output at 1,072.3 billion cubic feet, was up 2.3% from 2019. (Reporting by Muyu Xu, Judy Hua and Ryan Woo; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore)