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OMV Quarterly Clean EBIT Rise 23%, Sees Robust 2008

Austrian oil and gas group OMV reported on Tuesday a forecast-beating 23 percent increase in clean operating earnings in the fourth quarter on favourable crude prices and improved refining margins.

Group earnings before interest and tax (EBIT) rose to 688 million euros ($1.02 billion) after stripping out one-off items in the three months to December, while Romanian unit Petrom's clean EBIT contributed 237 million euros.

Analysts on average had forecast a 14 percent rise to 642 million euros.

For 2008, OMV expected another set of robust earnings, and said it expected production volumes in Romania to increase.

"We expect the main market drivers (crude price, refining margins and the USD/EUR exchange rate) to remain highly volatile throughout 2008," said OMV in a statement.

The oil and gas firm saw refining margins in 2008 slightly below last year's level and the U.S.-dollar and euro exchange rates to remain at year-end 2007 levels.

For 2008, OMV also said it planned to shut down its Neustadt refinery for one month in the summer and its Ingolstadt plant permanently in the third quarter of 2008, shaving off 1.5 million tons of annual capacity in German joint venture Bayernoil.

OMV said its reserve replacement rate -- the extent to which production is matched by new finds -- was 46 percent in 2007, following 406 percent in 2006 after the inclusion of Petrom.

OMV shares have fallen more than 11 percent since the start of the year, in line with the decline in Austria's blue chip index ATX.