By Steven Scheer
JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Israeli conglomerate Delek Group (DLEKG.TA) reported a 25 percent drop in quarterly net profit due to a loss in its U.S. fuel sector operations and a one-time tax expense.
Delek, an energy, insurance and biochemicals company, said on Thursday it earned 70 million shekels ($19.8 million) in the third quarter, compared with 93 million a year earlier. Revenue dipped to 9.6 billion shekels from 9.9 billion.
Its U.S. unit Delek US (DK) contributed a 7 million shekel loss in July-September versus a 232 million gain in the third quarter of 2012. Delek, however, has trimmed its stake in Delek US to 30.5 percent from 58 percent last year.
Delek's bottom line was also hurt by a 100 million shekel tax expense as a result of a corporate tax hike in Israel, but profit from its Israeli insurance and finance operations rose.
Delek Group, through its subsidiaries, has major shares in a number of newly discovered gas fields off Israel's coast.
The Tamar field, which Delek developed together with Texas-based Noble Energy (NBL), has estimated reserves of 10 trillion cubic feet (tcf) and began production in late March. Tamar has signed deals worth tens of billions of dollars to supply the local market with gas.
For the first nine months of 2013, Delek earned 46 million from gas production, compared with a 6 million loss a year ago.
Nearby Tamar is Leviathan, with an estimated 19 tcf of reserves and set to come online in 2016 and 2017. Israel's High Court last month upheld a government decision to allow exports of 40 percent of offshore reserves.
Delek and its partners "are exploring export options to various countries in the region through pipeline, LNG (liquefied natural gas) facilities and/or FLNG (floating LNG)," said Asaf Bartfeld, Delek chief executive.
He added that the partners of the Leviathan project continue their negotiations with Australia's Woodside Petroleum (WPL.AX) over potential participation in Leviathan. Woodside has agreed to buy a 30 percent stake in Leviathan for $1.25 billion but put the deal on hold pending the court's decision.
Delek said it would pay a quarterly dividend of 5.96 shekels a share, or 70 million shekels in total, down from 150 million a year ago.
(Editing by David Holmes)