* Clarity on cooperation with Rosneft in trading in summer
* Q4 core earnings beat expectations
* Expects gradual improvement in refining margins in 2014
* Margins to be boosted by Libya, Iran
By Stephen Jewkes
MILAN, Feb 21 Italian refiner Saras
said its business should get a boost if its partner Rosneft
goes through with plans to buy part of the oil-trading
operations of U.S. bank Morgan Stanley.
"It's an important development for Rosneft and a sign of
their more proactive commercial approach. We'll have to wait
till summer for clarity on how we'll move together," Saras
Managing Director Dario Scaffardi said in a conference call on
Saras, controlled by the Italian Moratti family, is partly
owned by Rosneft, Russia's state-controlled oil giant, with
which it has a joint venture for trading and processing crude
oil and selling refined products.
Last December, Rosneft agreed to buy much of Morgan
Stanley's physical oil-trading business. Rosneft
head Igor Sechin previously said the group was looking to raise
its stake in Saras.
Italy's No. 2 refiner, whose main Sarroch refinery in
Sardinia has a capacity of 300,000 barrels-per-day (bpd), is
counting on Rosneft to help diversify feedstocks and boost
Earlier on Friday Saras said improvement in its refinery
business helped its core earnings more than triple in the fourth
quarter to 64.4 million euros from 17.6 million a year before.
The result topped an analysts' consensus forecast provided by
the company of 21 million euros.
"These were much better than we expected," a Milan-based
Chairman Gian Marco Moratti said in the results statement
the Saras expected a gradual improvement in refining margins
this year as Libyan crude production recovers and sanctions
against Iran are eased.
The Italian refiner imported sweet Iranian crude before the
U.S-led embargo was imposed. It was also a big buyer of Libyan
crude before conflict interrupted supplies there.
"We have done well at finding replacements with crudes from
West Africa, the Caribbean area and North America," Scaffardi
A recovery in economic growth and demand for petrol products
will also bolster refining margins, Saras said.
European refining margins remain under pressure because of
over-capacity and increased competition from the Middle East and
Asia. Declining local demand and older, less-efficient plants in
Europe has also held back growth.
The company also announced it had delayed planned
maintenance at the gasoline production unit of the Sarroch plant
from the first quarter to the third and fourth quarters of this
At 1635 GMT, Saras shares were up 1 percent, while the
European oil and gas sector was up 0.7 percent.