* Q3 net profit 55.6 bln rupees vs 53.7 bln estimate
* Helped by lower subsidy burden, higher crude prices
* ONGC shares close down 1.7 pct ahead of results
NEW DELHI, Feb 11 (Reuters) - India's state-run Oil &
Natural Gas Corp beat quarterly profit expectations,
helped by higher selling prices for oil and gas and slightly
lower subsidy payouts to refineries.
ONGC, India's third-biggest company by market value,
subsidises state refineries by selling them crude oil at cheaper
rates so they can supply retail markets at capped prices.
ONGC posted net profit of 55.63 billion rupees ($1.04
billion) for its fiscal third quarter ended December. Net sales
rose 16 percent to 209.87 billion rupees. Analysts had on
average expected a net profit of 53.7 billion rupees, according
to Thomson Reuters Starmine data.
The net profit was down 17 percent on the same quarter last
year, when earnings were boosted by a one-time gain of 31.4
billion rupees from past royalty dues from joint venture partner
ONGC said on Monday gross discounts to state-run refiners
marginally fell to 124.33 billion rupees while the net amount it
received per barrel of crude rose to $47.97 from $44.71 a year
Last month, India partially raised prices of subsidised
diesel to cut the government's fiscal deficit and the oil
ministry has also recommended raising gas prices, but gains have
been limited so far as crude prices have also continued to rise.
ONGC has been on a buying spree in recent months to secure
interests in overseas oil and gas assets.
It agreed to pay $5 billion for ConocoPhillips' 8.4 percent
share of the Kashagan field in Kazakhstan in November, and
months earlier signed a $1 billion deal for a small stake in oil
fields in Azerbaijan.
The state explorer has also been investing to maintain
output from its old fields in India and has lined up capital
spending plans of around 340 billion rupees for the next fiscal
year starting April.
Shares in ONGC, valued at nearly $50.4 billion, closed 1.7
percent lower ahead of the results. The stock has jumped 15
percent so far in 2013, outperforming a 6 percent rise in the
(Reporting by Devidutta Tripathy and Prashant Mehra; Editing by