PETRON Corp. said on Tuesday that its first-quarter consolidated net income hit P1.73 billion, swinging from losses of P4.9 billion year on year, despite a decline in the number of oil barrels sold and lower revenues.

In a press release, the country’s largest oil company said that its end-March profit was higher than the P1.2 billion earned in the fourth quarter last year.

“First quarter volumes reached 19.38 million barrels, 21% lower than the 24.66 million barrels sold in the same period last year, while consolidated revenues decreased 20% to P83.3 billion from P104.62 billion a year ago,” said the listed company, which refines and markets oil in the Philippines.

Petron, also a leading participant in the Malaysian market, noted an improvement in its January-March sales compared with the average in the fourth quarter last year. But it said its sales performance “reflected the demand destruction” brought about by the global health emergency.

For the first quarter, Petron’s operating income stood at P3.7 billion, a reversal of its P4.4-billion operating loss in the same period last year. The firm did not disclose its net income attributable to parent firm equity holders.

Petron said that its parent company San Miguel Corp. is spending nearly P1 billion for its “Ligtas Lahat” vaccination program, which aims to inoculate all 70,000 SMC employees and extended work force.

“As a company, we are doing all that we can to create a safe and healthy work environment while ensuring that our recovery stays on track. Petron is constantly evolving, and we will continue to work towards our goal of emerging stronger from this pandemic,” Petron President and Chief Executive Officer Ramon S. Ang said.

Petron has built 14 new stations in the first quarter. It operates around 40 oil terminals in the region and has 2,800 service stations where it retails gasoline and diesel.

The company has set aside P11 billion for its 2021 capital expenditures, which covers the building of steam generator plants, strategic retail network expansion, and maintenance requirements.

It added that its two major expansion projects in Malaysia’s Port Dickson Refinery — the Diesel Hydrotreater and Marine Import Facility 2 — are on track.

In the same media release, Mr. Ang said Petron would resume the operations of its Bataan oil refinery in June. The refinery, which was placed on a temporary economic shutdown earlier this year, processes 180,000 barrels per day (bpd).

Mr. Ang earlier announced the temporary shutdown of operations to “reduce losses due to weak margins.”

In January, Petron said that it was infusing nearly P3 billion to improve its Bataan refinery operations after the Authority of the Freeport Area of Bataan (AFAB) approved of the firm’s registration in the province’s freeport area. The oil firm previously told the local bourse that its registration with the AFAB will improve the refinery’s financial viability in the long term.

Petron has a combined refining capacity of 268,000 bpd. It produces a full range of fuels and petrochemicals.

Shares of Petron in the local bourse improved by 3% or 10 centavos to close at P3.50 apiece on Tuesday. — Angelica Y. Yang