NEW YORK (AP) ¿ China Natural Gas Inc. on Tuesday said its third-quarter profit declined 9.5 percent as higher operating expenses more than offset a boost in sales. The cost of operations jumped in the most recent quarter, mainly due to additional expenses related to the acquisition of Lingbao Natural Gas Co. and the addition of 3 new fueling stations added since the third quarter of 2008. Those added stations, and an increase in residential and commercial pipeline customers, raised revenue levels for the quarter, helping to soften the blow. The company, which distributes natural gas in China, said third-quarter earnings fell to $4.6 million, or 29 cents per share, compared with $5.1 million, or 35 cents per share, during the same period last year. Analysts polled by Thomson Reuters estimated a profit of 30 cents per share, on average. Analysts typically exclude one-time items. Revenue climbed 9.4 percent to $20.1 million from $18.4 million in the prior-year period. Analysts' average forecast was for revenue of $19.8 million.
China Natural Gas affirmed its full-year 2009 revenue and profit projections. It expects sales to rise up to 20 percent to a range between $78 million to $83 million. Net income is forecast to rise as much as 22 percent to a range between $17.5 million and $18.5 million. "We are excited about the potential demand growth and price increase in China's natural gas market," said Qinan Ji, CEO. Shares of the company rose 57 cents, or 6 percent, to $10.02 in morning trading.