FINDLAY, Ohio (AP) -- Marathon Petroleum Corp. said Wednesday that it earned $755 million in the fourth quarter as it shopped for cheaper supplies of crude oil, raising its refining profit margin.
The results beat analysts' expectations.
Fourth-quarter net income was $2.24 per share compared with a loss of $75 million, or 21 cents per share, a year ago. The company said that excluding special items, it would have earned $2.26 per share.
Operating revenue was $20.68 billion, up from $19.42 billion. Total revenue, including things such as asset sales, rose to $20.71 billion.
Analysts expected Marathon to earn $2.09 per share on revenue of $19.39 billion, according to FactSet.
The company said gross profit margin from refining and marketing jumped to $9.17 per barrel in the fourth quarter, up from 39 cents per barrel a year earlier, on cheaper crude oil and larger spreads between crude and finished-product prices.
Marathon said it was able to take advantage of lower prices for so-called heavy crude oils. As the year ended, the company finished a $2.2 billion investment to expand capacity for refining heavy crude, which it expects to remain cheaper than other oils "well into the future."
Marathon also announced that it would pay a quarterly dividend of 35 cents per share and raised its stock-buyback authority by $2 billion, to a new limit of $2.65 billion. The dividend is payable March 11 to shareholders of record on Feb. 20.
Marathon Petroleum shares rose 44 cents to $72.41 in morning trading.