Caltex boosts profit on rising refining margins

Caltex has turned its fortunes around, swinging from a substantial loss in 2011 to a profit last year.

The company made an annual after-tax profit of $57 million, a significant turnaround from the company's $714 million loss in 2011.

Both results were affected by costs associated with the company's decision to shut down its Kurnell oil refinery in Sydney and convert it into an import terminal - those costs fell from around $1.1 billion last year to $309 million in 2012.

However, oil inventory losses of $92 million compared with a gain of $138 million in 2011.

Caltex's preferred underlying replacement costs basis measure of profit - which excludes one-off costs and gains - was up 74 per cent to $458 million for 2012.

The company says its earnings were boosted by an increase in the refiner's profit margin to an average of $US11.83 per barrel up from $US7.98 the year before, with margins averaging $US13.58 a barrel in the second-half of 2012.

In Australian dollar terms, the Caltex's refining margin rose from 7.22 cents a litre in 2012 compared to 4.87 cents in 2011.

The company says it also profited from its strategy of driving premium diesel and petrol sales, as well as increasing sales of jet fuel and lubricants.

Caltex says the rise in premium fuel sales is offsetting an overall decline in demand for petrol, as consumers move towards smaller, more fuel efficient vehicles.

Caltex's chief executive Julian Segal says, while marketing and distribution remain key growth areas for the company, the changes at Kurnell are also extremely important.

"Whilst the environment continues to be competitive, we are committed to appropriate investment to support its ongoing growth," he said.

"Our focus on Kurnell is successfully transitioning the refinery to become Australia's largest and most modern transport fuels import terminal, underpinning our industry-leading supply chain." Caltex will pay a fully-franked final dividend of 23 cents per share for the second half of the year, up from the 17-cent first-half dividend, but down on 2011's total of 45 cents for the full-year.

Caltex shares were up 2.5 per cent to $18.70 by 11:55am (AEDT) as investors welcomed the results.

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