BUCHAREST, Feb 25 (Reuters) - Romania's top oil and gas group Petrom, majority owned by Austria's OMV , recorded a worse-than-expected net loss of 171 million lei ($56.18 million) in the fourth quarter.
A Reuters poll published earlier this week produced an average forecast for a net loss of 75.4 million lei, compared with a net loss of 1.27 billion lei in the same period of last year and a 615 million lei profit in the third quarter of 2009.
Earnings before interest and taxes (EBIT) was 38 million lei, a steep fall from 705 million EBIT in the previous quarter but better than the 1.2 billion loss before interest and taxes in the fourth quarter of 2008.
Net profit rose 34 percent to 1.368 billion lei last year on net turnover of 12.8 billion lei.
"Q4/09 was the second quarter since privatisation with negative net profit due to FX (foreign exchange) losses and interest expenses," Petrom said in a statement.
"Q4/09 EBIT was slightly positive and well above the level of Q4/08, which was negatively impacted by one-off items and a sharp oil price decline."
Petrom said it expected market conditions to remain challenging in 2010 and would continue restructuring, with focus on strict cost management.
"Priority for 2010 is to secure cash flow for future investments, both to maintain business sustainability and achieve growth potential," it said.
Petrom said it expected the market for refined products to remain challenging throughout the year, with a deeply depressed margin environment given the overcapacity in the industry in Romania as well as the rest of Europe.