After hedge fund Elliott Management raised concerns with Marathon Petroleum (MPC - Get Report) , the Findlay, Ohio-based refiner is moving forward with its plan to accelerate the transfer of some assets to its MPLX LP (MPLX - Get Report) unit.
"MPC is executing plans to significantly accelerate the dropdown to MPLX of assets with approximately $1.4 billion of annual earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA) now planned for 2017, including $250 million by the end of the first quarter," management said its fourth-quarter earnings statement.
The company said it has also selected an independent financial advisor to assist in the review of its Speedway retail business "to ensure optimum value is delivered to shareholders over the long term;" the update on the review is expected in mid-2017. Management declined to name the financial advisor during the conference call with analysts.
Elliot Management disclosed a 4% stake in Marathon in November, issuing recommendations to increase shareholder value. The hedge fund has also been turning up the pressure on Arconic (ARNC - Get Report) , calling for a change in leadership to improve performance.
Shares of MPC were falling during the trading session Wednesday morning despite the company posting a top- and bottom-line beat for the fiscal fourth quarter.
The Findlay, Ohio-based refiner reported earnings of 43 cents a share on revenue of $17.3 billion, surpassing analysts' estimates calling for earnings of 26 cents a share on revenue of $15.86 billion.
For the full year, Marathon Petroleum reported profit of $1.17 billion, or $2.21 on a per share basis. Revenue came in at $63.36 billion for the year.
The refining and marketing segment income totaled $219 million for the fourth quarter. Full year revenue declined to $1.54 billion, compared to $4.09 billion in 2015, mainly due to lower crack spreads in both the Gulf Coast and Chicago markets and higher direct operating costs due to refinery turnaround.
Furthermore, while management remains optimistic about the Trump administration's "America First Energy Plan," CEO Gary Heminger noted on a conference call with analysts that the consumer would bear the cost of any border adjustment implemented by the new administration.
Marathon's Speedway retail segment income for the period was $165 million, compared to $135 million for 2015. The increase in income was driven primarily due to lower operating costs and an increase in merchandise margin, but that was partially offset by lower light product margin. Full year income came in at $734 million.
Marathon's midstream income, which includes all of MPLX's operations, was $245 million for the fourth quarter, a significant increase from the $94 million recorded for the period in 2015. Full year income also rose to $871 million.
"One year following the strategic combination of MPLX and MarkWest, we are pleased with MPLX's 2016 results and are encouraged by the robust portfolio of growth opportunities, which will contribute to long-term value for our investors," CEO Gary Heminger said.
MPLX's capital investment plan for 2017 includes approximately $1 billion to $1.3 billion for the development of natural gas and gas liquids infrastructure to support producer customers, primarily located in the Marcellus Shale basin. Another $400 million of capital growth is planned for crude oil and refined petroleum products infrastructure projects, of which some will be allocated to the build-out of Utica Shale infrastructure.
Excluding MPLX, Marathon Petroleum is forecasting for a $1.7 billion capital investment plan for 2017. It includes nearly $1.2 billion for the company's refining and marketing segment, along with about $325 million for margin-enhancing projects and approximately $840 million for sustaining capital.
Additionally, as OPEC member nations appear to be committed to its self-imposed production cuts, Marathon Petroleum says the cartel's actions should "support higher crude prices throughout the year." But, management added that they don't think the OPEC cuts will have a big impact on Marathon Petroleum.