UPDATE 1-Valero's profit beats estimates as refining margins rise

(Compares with analysts' estimate, adds details on refining margins and Marathon Petroleum results)

Feb 1 (Reuters) - U.S. refiner Valero Energy Corp's fourth-quarter profit beat Wall Street estimates on Thursday, as the company benefited from higher margins.

San Antonio, Texas-based Valero said operating income from its refining business, its largest revenue generator, rose 52.2 percent to $982 million, helped by higher distillate and gasoline margins.

Smaller rival Marathon Petroleum Corp earlier reported a better-than-expected quarterly profit as its refining and marketing margin rose 16 percent.

Analysts have said U.S. refiners are set for a robust 2018 as they are expected to benefit the most from a tighter oil market due to OPEC-led production curbs and favorable tax reforms.

Valero's operating revenue rose 27.4 percent to $26.39 billion in the quarter.

Net income attributable to Valero rose to $2.37 billion, or $5.42 per share, in the three months ended Dec. 31, from $367 million, or 81 cents per share, a year earlier.

Excluding items, Valero earned $1.16 per share, beating analysts' average estimate by 8 cents, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

(Reporting by Yashaswini Swamynathan in Bengaluru; Editing by Savio D'Souza)