Higher refining efficiencies gave Crown Central Petroleum Corp. a better earnings picture in its third quarter than the same period last year, the Baltimore-based gasoline refiner and marketer said yesterday.
Crown's net income for the quarter ended Sept. 30 was $300,000, or 3 cents a share, compared with a net loss of $26.6 million, or $2.71 a share, during the same period last year.
Sales and operating revenues in the quarter amounted to $475 million, compared with $468 million for the third quarter of 1994.
"I wouldn't say that their earnings are a shock, but I expected they would be a little higher," said Kurt Funderburg, an analyst who follows Crown for Ferris, Baker Watts Inc. in Baltimore.
Mr. Funderburg noted that Crown had lost $1.2 million on its refining operations. But he said that most of that loss was "largely beyond their control."
"The refining margins in the Gulf Coast, where their refineries are located, were down substantially from the second quarter," Mr. Funderburg said. Crown's refineries are located near Houston and Tyler, Texas.
Crown's third-quarter earnings were not as strong as those of its second quarter of this year, when the company registered net income of $7 million on sales of $483 million.
But analysts and company officials still say they believe Crown is heading in the right direction -- especially with its program of expanding the profitability of its retail sales and merchandising.
To add diversity to its holdings, Crown purchased 15 Conoco outlets during the third quarter, bringing the total number of its stations to 348.
"One of our strategies is to capture more of the total margin available in our other business areas, on the retail side," said Joseph M. Coale, a Crown spokesman.
Mr. Funderburg noted that Crown has been paying more attention to the merchandising and pricing of items other than gasoline that are sold at its stations -- including sodas, cigarettes, snack foods and beer and wine.
"I'm impressed with the profitability of their retail gasoline and merchandising programs," Mr. Funderburg said.
He said Crown is headed for a stronger financial future, due to the expectation of stronger margins on petroleum refining and the company's higher level of efficiency.
"In the last two years, the company has significantly cleaned up its act," the analyst said.
For the nine months ended Sept. 30, Crown lost $2.8 million or 29 cents per share; compared with a loss of $25.2 million, or $2.57 a share, during the like period of 1994.