Profits up for oil refiner

Hellenic Petroleum, the oil refiner, yesterday reported a 43 percent hike in consolidated pretax profits in the first nine months of the year as increased petrochemical sales and marketing gains offset the continued weakness in refinery margins. Group pretax profits, calculated according to International Accounting Standards, rose to 167.8 million euros from 117.3 million the previous year. Earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortization went up to 242.5 million euros from 191.1 million, while operating profits increased to 147.1 million euros from 117.3 million. Despite the sustained low international refinery margins, profits showed a «satisfactory improvement,» Giorgos Moraitis, company chairman, said. A gain of 31.4 million euros resulting from positive exchange differences also boosted the bottom line. Low global oil prices and a 15.6 percent drop in export sales dented group revenues, which fell by 10.6 percent to 2.58 billion euros. The only sector to post an increase, the petrochemical division, managed to boost turnover by 41.4 percent to 144.1 million euros, helped by the polypropylene plant in Thessaloniki which came on line in March. Moraitis said a discernible improvement in refinery margins at the end of August is expected to continue to the last quarter of the year and boost full-year results. The government is currently negotiating with the consortium of the Latsis group and Russia’s Lukoil for the sale of a 23 percent stake in Hellenic Petroleum. Moraitis declined to comment on the talks but confirmed that the oil refiner intends to continue its expansion abroad regardless of the outcome. It recently acquired a chain of petrol stations in Cyprus and the Montenegrin oil company Yugopetrol. The shares of Hellenic Petroleum dropped 0.98 percent to close at 6.20 euros yesterday.

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