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PetroChina Q4 net profit jumps 21 pct on gas price hike

HONG KONG, March 20 (Reuters) - PetroChina Co Ltd, the country's largest oil and gas producer, reported a 21 percent rise in net profit for the fourth quarter partly due to the government increasing domestic natural gas prices, but the profit slightly lagged forecast.

The state-run company booked a net profit of 34.3 billion yuan ($5.5 billion) for the quarter, up from 28.4 billion yuan in the same year-ago period, according to Reuters calculations.

The profit is slightly lower than a consensus forecast of 35.9 billion yuan from four analysts polled by Thomson Reuters.

For the whole of 2013, net profit rose 12 percent year-on-year to 129.6 billion yuan from 115.3 billion yuan. That was higher than the average estimate of 126.8 billion yuan in a Thomson Reuters poll of 30 analysts.

China last year raised the price local distributors pay for gas for non-residential use by 15 percent as part of efforts to boost domestic natural gas production as well as imports.

PetroChina, which had lost billions of dollars from selling imported natural gas at steep discounts, has said it expected the first gas price hike by the government in three years to narrow its gas import losses and boost profitability by 20 billion yuan every year from 2014.

($1 = 6.1965 Chinese Yuan) (Reporting by Charlie Zhu and Twinnie Siu; Editing by Miral Fahmy)