Murphy USA Income Down in 1Q

Murphy USA Inc. of El Dorado had income of $9.6 million for its first quarter of 2014, which compares with $22 million in the same quarter of 2013 for the business lines that were then part of Murphy Oil Corp.

In a news release, CEO Andrew Clyde blamed the decline in profitability on higher wholesale fuel prices that squeezed the margin on retail prices at the pump. The retail fuel margin in the first quarter of 2013 was the company's highest to date and "did not recur this year."

Diluted earnings per share were $0.21, compared to $0.47 in 2013. Murphy USA's total revenue for the quarter was $4.16 billion, down from $4.35 billion in 2013. Total fuel sales for the quarter were $3.59 billion, compared to $3.76 billion in 2013.

Merchandise sales fell slightly during the quarter, to $502 million from $515 million in the first quarter of 2013. But even there there were bright spots, Clyde said: Sales of non-tobacco merchandise continued to expand, and the profit margin on tobacco categories improved despite seling fewer cigarette cartons.

Ethanol and other sales made up the remaining $67.2 million in revenue, down from $79.9 in the previous quarter.

"During the first quarter of the year, we generated significant operating cash flows by running our fuel supply chain leaner," Clyde said in the release. "We used a portion of this available cash to make an early payment of $15 million on our term loan at the end of the quarter and paid off the remaining $55 million subsequent to quarter end."