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Saras earnings hit by maintenance and oil price
MILAN (Reuters) - Italian refiner Saras (SRS.MI) missed quarterly expectations, hit by maintenance at a plant in Sardinia and lower oil prices, and said it hoped for a better second half.
If refining margins remained at current levels in the second half, "we shall deliver sensibly higher results," chairman Gian Marco Moratti said on Friday.
Europe's refining sector has suffered due to rapid expansion in China and India which has fuelled competition, while slack demand in Europe has hit margins and seen refineries shut down.
Saras, one of Italy's leading oil refiners, said comparable second-quarter earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA) were 33.6 million euros ($41 million), compared with a consensus provided by the company of 52 million.
Shares in Sara, controlled by the Moratti family, closed down 9.0 percent at 0.8550 euro.
"The results were disappointing with the refining business weak, and the outlook is not looking great," a Milan-based oil analyst said.
Falling oil prices meant Saras's stocks and inventories were worth less, while maintenance work meant its refinery in Sardinia cannot be used to full effect.
Saras said maintenance had been concentrated in the first half with only minor work seen in the second half.
"There will be no significant maintenance in 2013 outside the usual hydrocracker work," general manager Dario Scaffardi told analysts.
Italian energy company and refiner ERG (ERG.MI) has downsized its presence in refining to focus on power and renewable energy generation.
The Falconara refinery owned by Italian group Api and the Gela refinery of ENI (ENI.MI) have decided on a temporary shut-down of activities because of the problems facing the sector.
"Falconara will shut down at the end of the year for one year but we believe it might have to halt operations. (Also,) we believe it might be difficult for it (Gela) to restart operations," Scaffardi said.
Saras said its refining margin in the second quarter was $0.5 per barrel, unchanged from the first quarter. In 2011 the margin was $2.8 per barrel.
Saras was an importer of sweet Iranian crude before the U.S-led embargo on the country. Scaffardi said oil found as a replacement had cost slightly more. "Iran was a stable and a steady supplier," he said, adding the group had replaced Iranian supplies with crudes from Iraq, Libya, Russia and west Africa.
He said there was big demand for Libyan crude from Asia and especially Japan. "We are seeing more West Africa crude in the Mediterranean area since the U.S. is importing less" he said.
(Reporting By Stephen Jewkes; Editing by Mike Nesbit and Dan Lalor)
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