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Saras Says Refining Margins Likely to Improve on Diesel Demand

Saras SpA, owner of the Mediterranean’s largest oil refinery, said refining margins rose in the fourth quarter and will likely improve further on demand for diesel.

While political unrest in North African countries poses some “short-term bearish risks” for the oil industry, “the underlying trend for refining margins is positive,” the Milan-based company said today in a stock exchange statement.

Saras, which swung to a fourth-quarter net loss of 10.3 million euros ($14.2 million) today on depreciation and amortization charges, reported a 60 percent increase in revenue to 2.5 billion euros.

The company said production of middle distillates, a category that includes diesel and jet fuel, failed to keep up with demand, helping to boost margins. Saras also said cost cutting and measures such as increased availability of refinery units will deliver savings of up to 45 million euros in 2011.

Shares rose as much as 2.8 percent today in Milan trading to a two-week high, and were little changed at 1.79 euros as of 10:00 a.m. local time.

Saras’s Sarroch refinery on the Italian island of Sardinia processed 287,000 barrels a day in 2010, an 8 percent increase on a decline in maintenance activities.

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