(Reuters) - Chemical maker LyondellBasell Industries NV’s (LYB.N) quarterly revenue missed Wall Street’s expectations and its profit was drained by high supply costs in Europe and Asia, sending shares down nearly 5 percent.
The mixed results -- profit narrowly beat expectations -- highlight the growing advantage North America has in the production of ethylene, the building block of many common chemicals, as much of the rest of the world lags in shale development.
LyondellBasell’s European chemical plants, also known as crackers, use pricey crude oil-derived naphtha to produce chemicals, a process that is much more expensive than in the United States, where cheap natural gas can be used to make the same products.
“U.S. ethylene manufacturers are in a great competitive position relative to other producers,” Chief Executive Jim Gallogly said in a statement.
Despite the high costs in Europe, the company should see “positive momentum” for the rest of the year, Alembic Global Advisors analyst Hassan Ahmed said. He recommends investors buy the shares.
For the first quarter, the company posted net income of $599 million, or $1.04 per share, compared with $660 million, or $1.15 per share, in the year-earlier period.
Excluding reorganization charges and other one-time items, it earned $1.07 per share. By that measure, analysts had expected earnings of $1.06 per share, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.
Revenue fell 3 percent to $11.88 billion. Analysts had expected $11.98 billion in revenue.
Production of chemicals used in de-icing fluids dropped due to a warm North American winter, mimicking results seen by rival Dow Chemical Co DOW.N.
In January, LyondellBasell mothballed its Berre, France, refinery, which employs 370 workers, due to poor European margins. The company said it would try to attract a potential buyer within two years.
The closure dented profit at the company’s refining and oxyfuels unit, which makes gasoline and other products.
Shares fell 4.9 percent to $43.49 in morning trading. The stock has traded between $22.90 and $48.12 in the past 52 weeks.
The company, which is formally based in Netherlands but run out of Houston, sold $3 billion of senior notes in an offering last month.
Last autumn, the company also bought back nearly $2.8 billion in debt.
Those moves helped LyondellBasell cull its long-term debt 31 percent to $3.98 billion. Since the year-ago period the company also initiated a quarterly dividend.
“We had a solid start to 2012 as margins in North American olefins and our Houston refinery rebounded from the weak levels experienced in the fourth quarter of last year,” Gallogly said.
Apollo Global Management LLC (APO.N) owns nearly one-third of LyondellBasell. The private equity firm invested $1.5 billion in the company when it restructured in 2010, and that stake’s value has more than quadrupled since.
Apollo is set to post its first-quarter earnings on May 8.
Reporting By Ernest Scheyder; Editing by Gerald E. McCormick, Maureen Bavdek, Dave Zimmerman