Q2 margins shrank 28% Y/Y to $14.54/bbl produced, but were roughly in line with analyst expectations and offset by higher than expected throughput volumes, Raymond James analysts say, adding that this had been "a common theme this refining earnings season."
HFC processed 472,590 bbl/day in the quarter, 13% more than a year earlier, but expects to process 405K bbl/day in Q3 due to work at its refineries in El Dorado, Kan., and Artesia, N.M.
CEO Mike Jennings said in this morning's earnings call that the assets of Venezuela's Citgo would be "a good fit" if they are for sale, adding that the company always looks at M&A possibilities.
Refiner stocks are dropping, in line with the margin squeeze that could result from the drop in crude oil prices, Barron's Dimitra DeFotis writes.
Rising violence in Libya continues to affect energy assets, but attempts for peace between Israel and the Palestinians over the weekend may be taking some of the risk out of energy markets; Brent prices are down nearly 1% to $107.76/bbl, narrowing the spread with West Texas crude, off 0.3% to $101.74.
Khan points to continued growth in U.S. and Canadian oil production, "sticky" oil prices due to Middle East volatility, U.S. oil price differentials that are "somewhat contained" at $5-$10/bbl, and headway on refining closures in the Atlantic basin that is only a matter of time.
As a result, the Citi team upgrades Marathon Petroleum (MPC +2.2%) to Buy from Neutral, as well as HollyFrontier (HFC +2%) to Neutral from Sell on valuation, but downgrades Alon USA Partners (ALDW -0.8%) to Neutral on the belief that Midland-Cushing differentials have peaked.
Valero Energy (VLO +1.7%) and Western Refining (WNR +2%) remain the firm's favorites - VLO because it sees “crude-on-crude competition on the U.S. Gulf Coast resulting in greater feedstock discounts at Valero’s high conversion refineries," and WNR for its restructuring potential.
HollyFrontier (HFC -1.7%) is downgraded to Neutral from Outperform with a $50 price target, down from $63, at Credit Suisse, which predicts the macro economy to negatively affect HFC's operational recovery.
The firm views global refiners as over-capacitated fears, and expects Middle East uncertainty to decrease the price of imports in H2 2014; due to recent crude oil spikes, it is concerned about the company's Q4 results.
Credit Suisse has cut HFC's Q2 EPS outlook by 18% and Q3 by 16%.
Most refiners recover part of yesterday's big drop, which some say was an overreaction to the U.S. government move to allow two oil companies to export ultra-light crude oil for the first time: TSO +2.8%, VLO +2%, PSX +1%, CVI +0.7%, CLMT +0.7%, WNR +0.6%, MPC +0.2%, ALJ -1%, PBF -0.6%, HFC -0.3%.
The death of U.S. refiners is "greatly exaggerated," Cowen analysts say: "The spirit of the law - that hydrocarbon liquids produced in the U.S. must be processed in the U.S. - remains in place, and permits for condensate exports do not constitute precedent for crude oil... We continue to see potential for a meaningful feedstock advantage for U.S. refiners emerging later in 2014."
Ned Davis Research, however, thinks the news is "potentially game changing for refiners," since it signals a change in the government’s position on oil exports more broadly and noting that it is the export ban, plus inadequate pipeline infrastructure, that has fed recent refiner outperformance.
“We don’t think the current system needs to be changed,” Valero Energy tells Bloomberg.
Yesterday's rulings gave Pioneer Natural Resources (PXD +2.6%) and Enterprise Products Partners (EPD +1.4%) permission to ship ultralight oil to foreign buyers - a narrow ruling, but one that is likely to spark similar requests from other companies, and increase lobbying for a full lifting of the 40-year-old ban on exporting crude oil.
Stocks at the Cushing, Okla., hub have dropped by 16M barrels since late January but have jumped by 43M on the Gulf coast; overall, U.S. commercial crude oil inventories now stand at their highest level on record, according to Barclays.
With the oil stuck there with nowhere to go, Gulf coast refiners can name their price - great for the likes of Valero Energy (VLO +1.9%), because they can then refine that oil into products such as gasoline that are allowable for export.
Given Ukraine’s location, the country's situation obviously will impact Brent more than WTI; meanwhile, WTI’s losses are limited after U.S. government data yesterday showed crude supplies at Cushing, Okla., declining to a four-month low.
Phillips 66 (PSX -2.8%) has dropped 3.5% YTD, while Delek US (DK -5.3%) has plunged 17%, Valero (VLO -4.3%) has slipped 3.8%, Holly Frontier (HFC -3.1%) has fallen 8.2% and Marathon Petroleum (MPC -4.4%) is off 8.5% in 2014.
The energy sector - especially refiners - leads the stock market higher today even as crude oil trades lower, with Phillips 66 (PSX +3.2%) contributing to the strength after Berkshire Hathaway agreed to acquire its flow improver business (I, II).
Shrinking crude spreads - WTI has gained 7.2% while Brent has risen just 1.7% so far in December - likely will hold back refiners during the first six months of 2014, Cowen's Sam Margolin says.
Extremely favorable refining conditions from last month are deteriorating amid higher utilization and continued reduction in crude imports, limiting supply and causing U.S. prices to melt higher, the firm explains, adding that investors need to "manage near-term expectations" while "remain(ing) constructive on the refining story for 2014."
Margolin keeps Outperform ratings for Western Refining (WNR +4%), Marathon Petroleum (MPC +2.6%), Tesoro (TSO +0.4%), Valero (VLO +1.4%) and PBF Energy (PBF +1.7%); HollyFrontier (HFC +2.4%), Delek (DK +2.3%), Northern Tier (NTI +0.6%), Alon USA (ALJ +1.7%) and Calumet Specialty Products (CLMT +3.8%).
Tesoro (TSO -1.8%) apparently didn't offer enough good news at yesterday's analyst day, as shares tumble despite the general perception from the meeting as "incrementally positive."
The key messages in the meeting surrounded progress of the synergy capture from the Carson acquisition, continued margin improvement through feedstock and product optimization and driving additional logistics growth.
TSO sees rail unloading capacity along the U.S. west coast for North Dakota crude oil growing to nearly 1M bbl/day through 2015; TSO's $100M rail-to-barge project in Washington is the largest of the offloading projects announced so far.
Imperial Capital raises its TSO price target TSO to $63 from $57, and Howard Weil lifts its target to $66 from $62.
J.P. Morgan is the latest investment banker to turn bullish on refiners, upgrading HollyFrontier (HFC +2%), Valero Energy (VLO +1.8%) and Marathon Petroleum (MPC +0.9%) on its expectation for a larger difference between Brent and West Texas oil prices.
The firm revises its view on oil prices, forecasting Brent prices averaging $105.50/bbl for 2014 and $100.30 for 2015 vs. WTI prices of $91.50/bbl for 2014 and $85.30 for 2015, suggesting a $14-$15 differential, which should increase U.S. refining margins.
In particular, the firm believes HFC's inland refining system is "well positioned to benefit from growth in production of disadvantaged inland North American crudes, and expect(s) HFC to capture Brent-WTI price differentials as higher gross margins across the majority of its throughput."
HFC is upgraded to Overweight from Underweight, VLO and MPC are raised to Neutral from Underweight, and Phillips 66 (PSX +1.5%) and Tesoro (TSO +1.2%) are maintained at Overweight.
Shares of refining companies move higher after Howard Weil's positive note on the sector, whose relative underperformance provides an opportunity for investors who felt they had missed their opportunity to participate in the U.S. energy renaissance to have another shot.
The firm singles out three stocks for upgrades: HollyFrontier (HFC +2%) and Valero (VLO +0.2%) are upgraded to Outperform from Sector Perform, while Marathon Petroleum (MPC +1.6%) is made a Focus Stock.
: The ban won't be lifted anytime soon. Great buying opportunity for those with dry powder.
Jun 25, 2:36 PM
HFC vs. ETF Alternatives
HollyFrontier Corp is an independent petroleum refiner. It produces high-value light products such as gasoline, diesel fuel, jet fuel, specialty lubricant products, and specialty and modified asphalt. It operates in two segments; Refining and HEP.