* Hellenic Petroleum Q3 EBITDA at 237 mln euros
* EBITDA beats analysts forecast
* Refining sales volumes outweigh lower margins
* To increase payout (Adds detail on dividend)
By Angeliki Koutantou
ATHENS, Nov 8 (Reuters) - Hellenic Petroleum, Greece’s biggest oil refiner, reported a 15 percent rise in third-quarter core profit on Thursday with stronger sales volumes more than offsetting lower refining margins.
Adjusted for oil inventory holding, earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA) came in at 237 million euros ($271 million), up from 206 million euros in the same period a year earlier.
The figure beat analysts average forecast of 213.4 million euros in a recent Reuters poll.
Hellenic, which operates three refineries in Greece and exports more than half of its output, said refining sales volumes, thanks to high utilisation rates of its refineries, outweighed a 20 percent drop in benchmark refining margins and higher provisions for CO2 emissions rights.
Refining sales volumes rose 8 percent in July to September to 4 million tonnes.
For the nine months to September, EBITDA, including oil inventory gains, rose 20 percent to 731 million euros.
Hellenic has said it expected EBITDA to top 1 billion euros this year, up from 851 million euros last year.
Under Greece’s privatisation programme, Hellenic has agreed to sell a 35 percent stake in Greece’s gas grid operator DESFA for about 280 million euros.
Hellenic said it expected to conclude the sale in the last quarter of the year and that it will use most of the proceeds to repay existing debt.
The company will pay out an interim dividend of 0.25 euros per share. Total dividend for the year could be at least 0.45 euros a share and Hellenic may also consider a special dividend from the DESFA proceeds, Deputy Chief Executive Officer Andreas Shiamishis told an analysts conference.
Hellenic paid a dividend of 0.40 euros a share last year.
The United States on Monday granted exemptions from crude oil sanctions against Iran to several countries, including Greece.
Asked about the impact of the waiver on Hellenic, Shiamishis said the company will wait until the United States formalise their decision. “Once we know what exactly we can and we can’t do, we will act accordingly,” he said. (Reporting by Angeliki Koutantou; editing by David Evans and Alexandra Hudson)