By Arunima Kumar
(Reuters) -Marathon Petroleum and Phillips 66 posted quarterly profits which cruised past Wall Street estimates on Tuesday, becoming the latest U.S. refiners to benefit from robust fuel demand and margins amid tight supplies.
U.S. refiners are posting strong profits with refineries running at record levels this year, strong export demand amid a squeezed supply due to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and plant closings.
The sector has, however, drawn criticism from President Joe Biden, who said refiners were putting profits ahead of consumers and urged them to expand capacity.
Shares of Marathon rose as much as 4% to their all-time high of $118.09, while Phillips 66 jumped 5% to $109.66.
Top bosses of both refiners said market environment continues to be favorable and product demand remains strong.
“As supply remains constrained and demand continues to rebound, we maintain a bullish outlook towards the refining environment as we look into 2023,” said Michael Hennigan, Marathon’s chief executive officer, on a call.
Marathon, the largest U.S. refiner by capacity, said quarterly crude capacity utilization was about 98%, resulting in total throughput of 3 million barrels per day (bpd), 7% higher than a year earlier.
For the current quarter, it expects refinery throughput to be 2.9 million bpd.
Amid the bumper results, Marathon also increased its dividend by 30% to 75 cents per share and expects to commence share buy backs in November using the remaining $5 billion repurchase authorization.
“Marathon’s strong financial position and sizable share repurchase program should provide downside protection if oil demand falls…see an opportunity for increasing cash returns,” said Faisal Hersi, an analyst at Edward Jones.
Marathon’s refining and marketing margin doubled to $30.21 per barrel for the reported quarter compared with a year earlier.
Mirroring similar gains, rival Phillips 66’s realized refining margins tripled in the July-September quarter to $26.58 per barrel.
“(PSX) quarterly results were solid, in our view, as all four segments exceeded expectations, but the refining segment led the way,” Hersi added.
Phillips said it returned $1.2 billion through share repurchases and dividends during the quarter.
On an adjusted basis, Marathon reported a profit of $7.81 per share, beating average analysts’ estimate of $7.07, while Phillips 66’s adjusted profit of $6.46 per share smashed estimates of $5.04, according to Refinitiv data.
(Reporting by Arunima Kumar in Bengaluru; Editing by Krishna Chandra Eluri)