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Assessing Viking Global Investors' positions in the fourth quarter

Part 8
Assessing Viking Global Investors' positions in the fourth quarter (Part 8 of 8)

Why did Viking Global increase its position in Valero Energy?

Viking Global and Valero Energy

Viking Global’s new positions in the fourth quarter include Walgreen Co. (WAG), Canadian Pacific Railway (CP), Cemex SAB de CV (CX). The fund increased its positions in Facebook (FB) and Valero Energy Corporation (VLO), and liquidated the ones in Yahoo (YHOO) and Comcast Corporation (CMCSA).

Valero Energy Corporation (VLO) was a 1.56% position in Viking Global’s portfolio that was increased to 3.75% last quarter. Valero Energy Corporation, through its subsidiaries, is an international manufacturer and marketer of transportation fuels, other petrochemical products, and power.

VLO12Enlarge GraphThe company recently said CEO Bill Klesse will step down from his role in May and will be replaced by Chief Operating Officer Joe Gorder.

Valero saw its 4Q 2013 earnings increase 30% due to gains from the spinoff of gas-station retailer CST Brands, Inc. last year. Valero Energy posted a profit of $1.29 billion, or $2.38 a share, compared to a profit of $1.01 billion, or $1.82 a share, a year earlier. The company successfully completed the initial public offering of common units in Valero Energy Partners LP and plans to use this master limited partnership as the primary vehicle to grow its transportation and logistics assets.

Refining throughput volumes averaged $2.8 million barrels per day in the fourth quarter, which is an increase of 139,000 barrels per day versus the fourth quarter of 2012. Refining volumes were higher, primarily due to less maintenance activity and the initiatives of favorable crude discounts, particularly for light crude in the company’s Gulf Coast system. Differences in crude prices in the Gulf Coast enabled the company to expand its refining segment’s performance. From 4Q 2012 to 4Q 2013, Mars medium sour crude’s discount to Brent increased by $7.66 per barrel, and Maya heavy sour crude’s discount to Brent increased by $2.73 per barrel. Louisiana Light Sweet (LLS) prices increased by $8.39 per barrel, moving from a premium to a discount versus Brent.

The ethanol segment earned operating income of $269 million for 4Q 2013, attributed to strong gross margins driven by low industry ethanol inventories and a decline in corn prices, which combined with high quarterly average production volumes of 3.6 million gallons per day.

The company had reported a big drop in its 3Q sales as “third quarter refining margins were challenged.” Diluted earnings per share declined from $1.21 to $0.57 per share below Street estimates. The decline was attributed to lower gasoline and diesel margins, in addition to lower light sweet and sour crude oil discounts. Moreover, operating income was impacted by higher costs related to compliance with the U.S. federal renewable fuel standard.

VLO hedgeEnlarge GraphValero spokesperson Bill Day told Oil and Gas Journal that Valero plans to invest $730 million to upgrade two of its Texas refineries to process increased volumes of light crude sourced from the Eagle Ford shale in a project that is forecast to complete by year end 2015. With the upgrades, Valero hopes to capitalise from the “economically attractive and advantageously located” production of light tight oil (LTO) from North American shale plays.

Valero and other U.S. Gulf Coast refinery peers such Tesoro Corporation (TSO) and Phillips 66 (PSX) are poised to benefit from higher export prices and the availability of cheap crude along with pipeline infrastructure facilities.

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