SAN ANTONIO /PRNewswire/ -- Valero Energy Corporation (NYSE: VLO, "Valero") today reported net income attributable to Valero stockholders of $828 million, or $1.54 per share, for the first quarter of 2014 compared to $654 million, or $1.18 per share, for the first quarter of 2013.
First quarter 2014 operating income was $1.4 billion versus $1.1 billion in the first quarter of 2013. Increases in operating income in the refining and ethanol segments were partly offset by a reduction from the spinoff of the retail segment, CST Brands, Inc., on May 1, 2013.
The refining segment earned operating income of $1.3 billion in the first quarter of 2014 versus $1.2 billion in the first quarter of 2013. The $67 million increase in operating income was mainly due to higher throughput margin and volumes, partially offset by higher energy costs and depreciation expense. Throughput margin improved primarily due to increases in light sweet and sour crude oil discounts versus Brent in the U.S. Gulf Coast, which more than offset declines in gasoline and diesel margins relative to Brent in most regions. First quarter 2014 refining throughput volumes averaged 2.7 million barrels per day, an increase of 135,000 barrels per day from the first quarter of 2013.
"We've had a strong start to the year, and we achieved our best first quarter earnings per share since 2007," said Valero's Chairman and CEO Bill Klesse. "We continued to execute on our crude oil supply strategy of growing access to and processing more volumes of cost-advantaged North American crude oil. At Quebec City, we increased our North American crude diet to 45 percent in the first quarter, up from 28 percent in the fourth quarter of 2013 and on track to reach 100 percent by year end with the expected reversal of Enbridge's Line 9B pipeline. Our new crude rail unloading terminal at St. Charles was placed into service in March, while Port Arthur's rail unloading facility is under construction and expected to be completed in the fourth quarter."
Klesse continued, "We expect our well-positioned business will continue to benefit from the increased North American oil and gas production. Plus, as our economy continues to recover, fuel demand will increase from the lows we've seen since the 'Great Recession.' U.S. gasoline demand and margins look positive as we enter the summer driving season."
The ethanol segment achieved record first quarter operating income despite production slowdowns caused by weather-related challenges in transporting ethanol by rail. Ethanol operating income in the first quarter of 2014 was $243 million compared to $14 million in the first quarter of 2013. The increase in operating income was due to higher gross margin per gallon driven by weather-related supply disruptions as well as lower industry ethanol inventories, import volumes, and corn costs relative to the first quarter of 2013.
"Our ethanol investments have contributed significant earnings and cash flow as we've improved the operation of the plants and benefited from favorable ethanol margins during most of our ownership period," Klesse said. "In March, we acquired an idled 110 million gallon per year ethanol plant in Mount Vernon, Indiana, for $34 million. We plan to restart the facility and expect production will resume in the third quarter of this year."
Regarding cash flows in the first quarter of 2014, capital expenditures were $517 million, of which $129 million was for turnarounds and catalyst. Valero paid $133 million in dividends on its common stock and $226 million to purchase approximately 4.3 million shares of its common stock. The company ended the quarter with $6.6 billion in total debt and $3.6 billion of cash and temporary cash investments, of which $384 million was held by Valero Energy Partners LP, Valero's majority-owned midstream master limited partnership.
Valero expects 2014 capital expenditures, including turnarounds and catalyst, to be approximately $3 billion, as previously stated. The majority of the growth capital is allocated to logistics investments designed to increase access to cost-advantaged crudes and increase crude oil tankage, dock capability, and refined product waterborne loadings; as well as refinery projects to increase light crude oil processing capacity. Most of the logistics investments are expected to be eligible for drop-down into Valero Energy Partners LP in the future.
"We remain on track to deliver on our strategy for generating long-term shareholder value by leveraging our assets to take advantage of the increased energy production in North America," said Klesse. "This includes projects that upgrade natural gas and natural gas liquids into higher-value products. We also maintain our goal of returning cash to our stockholders through increases in the regular dividend and continued stock purchases."
As previously announced, Klesse will step down on May 1 as CEO but plans to continue to serve as Chairman. "My successor, Joe Gorder, and his executive team have my full support," Klesse affirmed. "They have worked with me for a long time and have been responsible, with all of our people, for Valero's success. They are the right executive team to lead Valero."