Unipetrol Drops as Investors Kept Waiting on Dividend Decision

Unipetrol AS, the largest Czech oil refiner, fell the most in almost 5 months after saying a decision on a possible dividend payout won’t be made for several months.

The stock dropped as much as 3.3 percent and traded 0.8 percent lower as of 2:38 p.m. in Prague. Fourth-quarter net income fell 70 percent from a year earlier to 182 million koruna ($7.3 million) after a fire at a steam cracker last year, the company said Thursday.

While the company still reported a record full-year profit of 7 billion koruna, Chief Executive Officer Marek Switajewski declined to say whether management will recommend paying out a dividend. The decision will be made before the annual shareholders’ meeting, which will probably take place in May or June, he said.

“There has been speculation in recent months that the company may pay a dividend," said Josef Nemy, an analyst at Komercni Banka AS, the Czech unit of Societe Generale SA. “There is certainly room for paying it.”

The fire at Unipetrol’s steam cracker reduced refining capacity, denting earnings. Still, the company has benefited from higher demand for refinery and petrochemical products as the Czech economy expanded for eight quarters through September. At the same time, costs have decreased amid the global oil glut.

Unipetrol confirmed that the steam cracker will be out of commission until July and won’t reach its full capacity before October. The company estimated the cost of repairs at 4.1 billion koruna and said it probably lost 2.4 billion koruna in income last year due to the fire.

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