BANGKOK, April 26 (Reuters) - Thailand's PTT Exploration and Production Pcl said on Thursday first-quarter net profit rose 21 percent as revenue increased on higher energy prices and that it was seeking growth through the acquisition of new assets.
The upstream flagship of national energy giant, PTT Pcl , said earnings in the January to March period were $423 million, which beat estimates of $402 million in a Reuters poll of three analysts. It was PTTEP's best quarterly increase in three years.
Total revenue was up 14 percent from a year earlier even though average sales volumes during the quarter fell to 293,099 barrel per day (bpd) of oil equivalent from 304,108 bpd of oil equivalent during the same period a year ago.
The production dropped occurred even after PTTEP acquired Royal Dutch Shell's 22 percent stake in the Bongkot gas field in January.
The oil explorer was eyeing "mergers and acquisitions of producing or near-producing assets" in Southeast Asia and the Middle East to boost petroleum reserves, the company said.
It has $5.1 billion in cash on hand, part of which would be used for investment and would prioritize concessions in the Gulf of Thailand and quicken investment decisions in Mozambique, Algeria and Vietnam.
Auctions for the Thai petroleum concessions were announced on Monday and PTTEP said it would jointly bid with France's Total in the Bongkot field. PTTEP said it would also bid in the Erawan field.
The company currently operates the Bongkot field, while Chevron Corp operates the Erawan field under licenses set to expire in 2023 and 2022, respectively.
The fields have combined natural gas output of 2.1 billion cubic feet a day, about 76 percent of output from the Gulf of Thailand. ($1 = 31.5800 baht) (Reporting by Chayut Setboonsarng; Editing by Christian Schmollinger)