Oil refiner Hellenic Petroleum more than doubled pretax profits in the first quarter following a fourfold increase in refining margins, increased production and higher sales. Pretax profits jumped to 99.8 million euros from 45.9 million euros a year earlier, and earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA) soared to 124.6 million euros from 75.1 million euros, the company announced yesterday. The figures are based on International Accounting Standards. «These are clearly good results, better than expected, driven by high refining margins,» said Alexandros Boulougouris, energy analyst at P&K Securities. However, he questioned the sustainability of the fast pace in the wake of the sharp decline in global oil prices following the end of the war in Iraq. «The second quarter could see flat or just slightly higher EBITDA for Hellenic Petroleum,» Boulougouris forecast. Refining margins on average came to $4.50 a barrel in the first quarter against $0.99 in the same period last year, Chief Executive Athanassios Karahalios said. Profits also got a lift from increased production and sales as the oil refiner cranked up the volume and made use of its newly acquired distribution networks in Montenegro and Cyprus to sell directly to the retail market. «We had a spectacular increase in sales,» said Karahalios. Production in the refineries rose 8.1 percent with sales up 14.4 percent. Chemical sales rose 34.7 percent and marketing sales 30.5 percent. Consolidated revenues increased 46.7 percent to 1.25 billion euros. Karahalios said full-year results are expected to be «very positive» despite the sharp fall in oil prices as analysts predict average refining margins this year to double last year’s figures.