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Libya and Yeman boost OMV profits

Energy group OMV said underlying quarterly profit rose a third after Libya and Yemen helped boost production and refining margins stayed strong.

OMV also said it would take time to restore full output in Libya - now around 90 percent of levels before the civil war that toppled Muammar Gaddafi, adding refining margins would have to fall given overcapacity in the market.

"To go back to 100 percent (in Libya) or above 100 percent compared to pre-crisis level would take some time. It is too early to say," chief executive Gerhard Roiss said.

Libya accounted for a tenth of OMV output before the war. It has 12 exploration and production licences there, with petroleum contracts running to 2032.

OMV had already reported that its refining margin rose 27 percent in the third quarter to $5.28 per barrel as crude oil prices eased and gasoline and middle distillate spreads rose.

It had said after the second quarter that refining margins had spiked and were expected to deteriorate as crude oil prices recovered. In the event, the margin recovery continued into the fourth quarter, it said, adding the outlook was uncertain.

"The industry worldwide and in Europe in particular still has the fundamental challenge of too much capacity, so to imagine that the margins that were are currently experiencing represent a return to ... normalcy would be a little bit optimistic," finance chief David Davies said.

OMV's clean CCS (current cost of supply) earnings before interest and tax (EBIT), which exclude special items and inventory holding effects, rose 34 percent to 786 million euros ($1.0 billion), compared with a forecast for 794 million in a Reuters poll.

OMV, whose activities range from exploration to filling stations, saw total production rise 1 percent to 309,000 barrels of oil equivalent per day in the quarter and said it should be broadly steady in the current quarter.

Davies said seismic testing for a big Black Sea gas find that could be OMV's biggest ever was to start soon and it expected a drilling programme to start by the end of next year, adding it was too early to say when production will start.

The offshore well, jointly owned by Exxon Mobil and OMV's Romanian unit Petrom, has discovered what could be up to 84 billion cubic metres of gas, OMV said in February.

OMV shares were down 1.4 percent to 27.91 euros by 1235 GMT, underperforming a 0.4 percent lower European oil and gas sector index.

The stock trades at around 6.3 times 12-month forward earnings, according to Thomson Reuters StarMine, which weights earnings estimates by analysts' track records. That marks a discount to European rivals Repsol on a multiple of 9.1, Eni on 8.5, and Total on 7.3.

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