Marathon Petroleum reports better-than-feared third quarter loss on demand recovery

(Reuters) - U.S. refiner Marathon Petroleum Corp MPC.N reported a smaller-than-expected quarterly loss on Monday as fuel sales picked up after coronavirus restrictions eased.

FILE PHOTO: Cars drive past a Marathon petroleum refinery in California, U.S., December 5, 2019. REUTERS/Mike Blake

Oil refiners around the world have been forced to cut production as the COVID-19 pandemic wrecked the need for travel and though fuel demand rebounded in the quarter, the resurgence in virus infections could lead to renewed lockdowns and derail the recovery.

“Despite some recovery, global demand for our products and services remains significantly below historical levels, which continues to pressure profitability for both our company and the industry,” said Chief Executive Officer Michael Hennigan.

The company’s crude capacity utilization in the third-quarter was 84%, excluding idled facilities, up from 71% in the second quarter, but still below last year’s 98%.

The company forecast fourth-quarter refinery throughput of 2.48 million barrels per day (bpd), lower than 2.54 million bpd reported in the third quarter.

The company also said it was starting up its Dickinson, North Dakota renewable fuels facility. At full capacity, the facility is expected to produce 12,000 bpd of renewable diesel from corn and soybean oil.

Marathon Petroleum intends to sell renewable diesel to the California market to comply with the state’s low carbon fuel standard.

Net loss attributable to the company stood at $1.02 billion, or $1.57 per share, for the third quarter ended Sept. 30, compared to a profit $1.1 billion, or $1.66 per share, a year earlier. The loss includes $525 million in impairment and other charges.

Excluding items, the company posted a loss of $1 per share, smaller than analysts’ average estimates of $1.70, according Refinitiv IBES.

Last week, rival refiners Valero Energy VLO.N and Phillips 66 PSX.N also posted better results than what analysts had feared.

Reporting by Arunima Kumar in Bengaluru; Editing by Amy Caren Daniel