Ampol capped off Thursday as the ASX’s best performing stock after its Lytton refinery clawed back losses to break-even. But the solid performance may be not enough to save the ageing plant.

Questions have been hovering over the Brisbane refinery’s long-term survival, despite the government offering assistance to the industry to help stem losses.

But the company formerly known as Caltex swung back into the black, reporting an unaudited first quarter profit of $175m, versus a $12m loss in the prior quarter, as oil prices rebound and retail sales “continue to perform strongly”.

Investors lapped up the news, with Ampol’s shares surging 5.4 per cent to $25.73 – rounding out the day as the ASX’s best performing stock.

Lytton broke even in the first quarter after recording an $18m loss in the previous corresponding period and a $4m loss in the December quarter. But Chief executive Matt Halliday said the strong performance might not be enough to save the refinery.

“We remain on schedule to conclude and communicate the outcomes from the Lytton refining review in second quarter of 2021 and are focused on maximising value for shareholders from this strategic asset,” he said.

Lytton Refiner Margin – which measures the difference between the market value of importing a standard Lytton refinery basket of products and the cost of importing the crude oil required to make that product basket – was US$5.48 per barrel, slightly above the US$5.13 per barrel LRM realised in the previous quarter.

Total Australian fuel volumes for the quarter were five per cent lower than the prior quarter given the impact of the lockdowns across Brisbane, Perth, Melbourne and parts of Sydney, as well as flooding in NSW and Queensland, but the company maintained production guidance of 13.5 – 14.0BL in 2021.

Retail fuel volumes fell by 7 per cent on the prior comparable period. Jet volumes, meanwhile, were down 53 per cent during the quarter against the prior comparable period and were 16 per cent lower than 4Q 2020 due to the continued impact of COVID-19.

Extracted in full from: Ampol back in the black but questions remain over Brisbane refinery | Herald Sun