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.
Wells Fargo analysts expect Q2 throughput volumes will be generally as expected, while capture rates will fall short of prior expectations likely due to weaker crack spreads; it lowers its Q2 and FY 2014 EPS estimates to a respective $1.18 and $5.87 from $1.31 and $6.00.
Raymond James analysts continue to “tread lightly” with the refiners, skeptical that WTI-Brent spreads can reach heights needed to drive EPS expectations higher for 2015 and beyond.
Other refiners are mostly higher after early losses: TSO +0.7%, HFC +0.3%, MPC +0.7%, PSX +0.4%, ALJ -0.5%, WNR +0.4%, CVI +0.8%.
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.
Shares of refiners such as Phillips 66 (PSX), Holly Frontier (HFC), Valero Energy (VLO) and Alon USA Energy (ALJ) have suffered since the U.S. government decided to allow the export of some ultra-light crude oil, and Barclays believes upcoming earnings reports aren't likely to help much.
U.S. refiners have fared better than international peers but still have been hit by the narrowing in most of the key North American crude differentials, although refiners exposed to the Cushing-Midland differential are affected less than most, the firm says.
As a result, Barclays slashes its current-year earnings forecast for most of the refiners; ALJ's FY 2014 EPS estimate is cut to $0.35 from $1.25 to reflect the company’s lower Q2 throughput guidance at its Big Spring refinery (39M bbl/day vs. 46M bbl/day prior).
The firm cuts EPS at HFC to $3.00 from $4.35, PSX to $6.20 from $7.95, and VLO to $6.25 from $8.35; only Tesoro (TSO) emerges unscathed, with its estimate left at $5.00.
All U.S. crude oil that is processed by a distillation tower - not just condensate - is exempt from the crude export ban, potentially widening the amount of petroleum U.S. producers can send to markets abroad, Reuters reports, citing U.S. government and industry sources.
By focusing on how the oil is treated rather than what it is, this week's ruling allowing two companies that produce condensate to export the oil if it is processed by a distillation tower appears to open an option for companies that produce traditional crude to get around the export ban by lightly boiling their own oil, the report says.
The new interpretation of the ruling will add to the speculation over how much of the U.S. shale oil boom might reach overseas markets.
But Credit Suisse analysts say there’s more to the drop in refiners: U.S. refining is still linked to the world, there is overcapacity in global refining and the risk premium in the oil price is rising, and this week the market was reminded that the lightest barrels (condensate) in U.S. production can be exported (via distillation towers) at relatively low cost, creating more runway for black oil.
The firm downgrades Holly Frontier (HFC -2.5%), and says Tesoro (TSO -0.7%) needs to beat convincingly in 2Q earnings... to drive further relative upside”; however, Marathon Petroleum (MPC -1.7%) "is becoming significantly more interesting after underperforming,” while it sees most potential in niche refiners such as Delek US (DK -3.4%) and Western Refining (WNR -0.9%).
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.
Oppenheimer notes that PXD, DVN, MRO, COP and MUR produce the most Eagle Ford condensate, and could benefit if U.S. condensate prices close some of the gap with European prices; EOG, the largest Eagle Ford producer, produces little condensate and likely benefits little from the lifting of the condensate ban.
Investor reaction toward Gulf Coast gathering and processing MLPs such as EPD, MMP, KMP and NGLS was more muted, since plans to build splitters in Texas may be undermined by even modest rule changes in the crude export ban that allow Eagle Ford producers to sell condensate after running it from the wellhead to their own nearby - and much cheaper - distillation towers.
“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.
: 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.