* Q4 comparable EBITDA 17.6 mln euro vs 46 mln consensus
* Share price slides over 6 percent
* Refining margin in Q4 $1.1/bl from $1.7 previous year
* Market waiting for details on Rosneft jv
(Recasts lead, adds shares, analyst, Rosneft)
By Stephen Jewkes
MILAN, Feb 28 Core earnings at Italian refiner
Saras slumped by two thirds and missed forecasts in the
fourth quarter, hit by flagging refining margins and a fallaway
in demand from traditional markets.
Increasing competition has weighed on European refiners as
the United States, once an attractive export market, has become
a net exporter of oil products due to its shale oil boom.
Faced with competition by more efficient plants in Asia and
the Middle East and crippled by high oil prices and weak fuel
consumption in peripheral Europe, some of Europe's refineries
are facing the threat of closure or reduced production.
Oil major Eni, Italy's biggest refiner, shut down its
refinery in Sicily last year for maintenance and is due to
reopen in June this year.
Saras's comparable earnings before interest, tax,
depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA) in the quarter slid to
17.6 million euros ($23.1 million), well below a 46 million euro
consensus provided by the company.
The refiner posted a net loss of 82.4 million euros compared
with a loss of 11 million euros in the consensus.
At 1236 GMT Saras shares were the worst performer on the
Italian market, down 6.2 percent at 0.868 euros.
"On refining EBITDA came in well below our expectations,"
Milan broker Mediobanca Securities said in a note, adding the
2013 outlook provided by the company seemed optimistic in view
of warnings of high volatility in oil prices.
Saras, controlled by Italy's Moratti family, which also owns
top flight soccer club Inter Milan, said this year had started
with a clearly more positive trend for the refining industry
with healthy demand outside Europe for both diesel and gasoline.
"The latter, in particular, showed unexpected strength,"
Chairman Gian Marco Moratti said.
The refiner said it expected its maintenance programme this
year, lighter than that of 2012, to reduce its EBITDA by $37-46
In December Saras announced an agreement with Russia's
Rosneft that will allow it to tap the Russian group's
crude oil portfolio in return for giving its partner access to
the wider Mediterranean.
Very few details were provided at the time and the scope of
the deal remains vague.
"At this afternoon's call (1400 GMT) we expect the company
to provide more information on the Rosneft jv which in our view
could lead to the Russian company taking an equity stake in
Saras's refinery...," Mediobanca said.
Saras's Sarroch refinery in Sardinia is well positioned
geographically to give Rosneft wide access to the Mediterranean
($1 = 0.7628 euros)
(Reporting By Stephen Jewkes; Editing by David Cowell)