Tesoro's ( TSO) fourth-quarter sales rose 29% from a year ago and the petroleum refiner's earnings were well ahead of estimates.

Tesoro earned $69 million, or 97 cents a share, in the quarter, compared with break-even in the year-ago period. The latest quarter included a charge of $57 million, or 81 cents a share, for a debt refinancing and a charge of $18 million, or 25 cents a share, for a write-off and accelerated depreciation.

Excluding the items, Tesoro earned $2.03 a share, beating the Thomson First Call consensus estimate of $1.91.

Sales were $4.36 billion in the latest quarter, up from $3.39 billion a year ago.

"We continued to run our assets very well during the quarter and achieved record fourth quarter throughput rates of 541,000 barrels per day, allowing us to capture strong margins and post record fourth quarter results," the company said. "The absence of any major turnaround activity during the quarter also contributed to the record run rates, when compared to last year's quarter. Improved marketing margins further contributed to record results."

"As we look ahead to 2006, we continue to remain focused on safe, reliable, environmentally sound operations and executing our high-return capital reinvestment program. Industry fundamentals appear poised to deliver another year of strong refining margins and we expect to continue to be able to deliver outstanding results for our shareholders," the company said.

The stock fell 76 cents, or 1.1%, to $69.25 in premarket trading. The price is 7.7 times next year's estimated earnings of $8.98 a share.