UPDATE 1-Czech Unipetrol posts fifth straight quarterly loss

Fri Jan 24, 2014 6:59am EST

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PRAGUE Jan 24 (Reuters) - Czech downstream oil group Unipetrol reported a loss for the fifth quarter in a row in the fourth quarter, due to low refinery margins and weak sales.

The company, facing overcapacity in the refining business that has squeezed margins, also missed, as expected, a goal of returning to an operating profit in 2013.

Its chief executive said it hoped to do so in 2014.

"Unfortunately we didn't manage that (target). We hope to achieve positive operating results at the end of (this) year," he said.

Unipetrol reported a full-year operating loss (EBIT) of 893 million crowns ($44.47 million) after a 3.82 billion crown loss in 2012 when it took a big charge on refining assets.

In the fourth quarter, Unipetrol saw a net loss of 690 million crowns, wider than the average estimate of a 375 million crown loss in a Reuters poll, hurt by the loss-making refining division. Its petrochemical business continued to be the main profit driver, it said.

Revenue at Unipetrol, majority owned by Poland's PKN Orlen , fell by 5 percent year-on-year to 25.07 billion crowns, versus 25.15 billion seen in the poll.

Unipetrol is planning to invest nearly $1 billion by 2017, with the majority going to petrochemicals. In November, the company a deal to buy partner Royal Dutch Shell's 16.3 percent stake in Ceska Rafinerska for $27.2 million, boosting its stake in the country's only refinery to 67.6 percent.

($1 = 20.0807 Czech crowns) (Reporting by Michael Kahn; Writing by Jason Hovet; Editing by Matt Driskill and Jane Merriman)

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