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Hellenic Petroleum Q1 profit beats forecasts

Greeces biggest refiner, Hellenic Petroleum, reported a higher-than-expected profit for the first quarter on Tuesday, as cost savings helped offset slumping fuel demand in the austerity-hit country.

Net profit, adjusted for the value of the companys oil inventory, stood at 45 million euros ($56.42 million), the same as in the previous year and higher than a 28.2 million euro average profit forecast made by analysts in a Reuters poll.

Hellenic runs refineries and petrol stations across the Balkans but still makes most of its profit at home, where fuel consumption has been hit by tax increases aimed at shoring up public finances.

Demand for petrol in the Greek market dropped by up to 10 percent during the first quarter, while demand for heating oil slumped by 15 percent, the company said.

Helped by cost savings, Hellenic reported higher adjusted operating profits - they were up by 4.2 percent to 75 million euros. That was broadly in line with analysts estimate of 77.3 million euros.

Partly state-owned Hellenic expects its performance to improve after the end of June, when its upgraded refinery at Elefsina will start commercial operations. The unit needs to come online so that Hellenic can begin reducing its debt and become a more attractive privatisation target.

"The start-up of the Elefsina refinery in the next few weeks will highlight a turning point for the group," its chief executive John Costopoulos said in a statement.

Hellenic is part of Greeces planned privatisation programme, a condition of the debt-laden countrys international bailout deal.
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