Saras, one of Italy's leading refiners, said on Tuesday its core earnings in the fourth quarter fell 31 percent on weak demand due to the euro zone debt crisis and high oil prices fuelled by the growing tension over Iran.
Saras, which currently uses about 10 percent of Iranian crude oils in its refinery mix, reiterated its position that if the EU embargo on oil imports from Iran is enforced it will take all necessary actions to procure alternative crude oils.
In January the European Union decided to establish a total crude oil embargo against Iran, effective as of July 1.
Saras said its fourth-quarter comparable earnings before interest taxes, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA) stood at 55.6 million euros ($74.48 million), above an average analyst forecast provided by the company of 39 million euros.
It said planned maintenance at its Sarroch refinery in Sardinia this year is expected to cut core earnings by $70-85 million.
Overcapacity and a weak economic climate have cut refining margins, especially for the smaller operators across Europe.
Italy's oil and gas major Eni said earlier in February European refining margins will remain at unprofitable levels due to high costs of oil supplies, sluggish demand and excess capacity.
Saras said its refining margin in the quarter stood at $1.7 per barrel, down from the $4.1 per barrel the previous year but above the EMC Benchmark which was a negative $1.5 per barrel, thanks in part to the resumption of Libyan crude supplies.
Saras, which has traditionally taken about 30 percent of its crude supplies from Libya, saw supplies interrupted by the Libyan conflict.
The resumption of Libyan crude exports was expected to have an impact in the beginning of 2012.
The adjusted net profit in the fourth quarter was 10.3 million euros compared to a loss of 3.5 million euros a year ago. ($1 = 0.7466 euros)