By Kirsti Knolle
VIENNA (Reuters) - Austrian energy group OMV posted a net loss for the first quarter due to significant inventory costs and lowered its production target and crude price forecasts in response to tumbling oil demand in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.
OMV said on Wednesday it lost 68 million euros ($74 million) in the three months through March after making a profit of 496 million euros in the same period a year before.
With economies around the world locked down and travel halted to arrest the coronavirus pandemic, storage capacities are filling up fast globally, an additional cost for energy companies. Investors worry that recently agreed supply cuts might not be deep enough to counter falling demand.
Clean current cost of supplies (CCS) earnings before interest and tax (EBIT), which exclude special items and inventory gains or losses, fell 8% in the quarter to 699 million euros, above an average estimate of 573 million euros in an OMV poll of 15 analysts.
Oil prices sank 65% in the first three months to lows of $22 a barrel as strict movement restrictions led to a collapse in demand for transportation fuels.
April has seen some of the most turbulent days in oil trading as investors confronted the reality that worldwide supply will overwhelm demand for months or years. U.S. crude futures fell into negative territory for the first time.
OMV said it expects the Brent oil price to average $40 per barrel this year and saw the realised gas price at 11.9 euros per megawatt hour.
The Austrian company now sees its 2020 output at around 440,000 barrels of oil equivalent per day (boed) instead of its previous target of 500,000 boed.
Chief Executive Rainer Seele has said he was considering reducing working hours for OMV staff and shutting down a refinery due to the slump in demand. It is also open whether the proposed dividend of 2.00 euros per share will be paid.
The group, which has a global workforce of around 20,000, announced last month it would cut spending by about 20% this year and said it had reached a deal to pay for its stake buy in plastics maker Borealis in stages to free up cash.
OMV had agreed earlier in March to purchase a 39% stake in Borealis from Abu Dhabi state investor Mubadala, to lift its own stake to 75% and make it one of the world's leading polymer producers.
To fund the $4.7 billion acquisition, OMV plans sell $2.3 billion of assets by the end of next year.
A large number of parties have already expressed interest in its nearly 300 filling stations in Germany, it said on Wednesday.
Due diligence for the planned divestment of its 51% stake in gas pipeline operator Gas Connect Austria to hydropower specialist Verbund was making progress.
Quarterly cash flow from operating activities was 838 million euros and its cash position at end-March was 2.8 billion euros.
($1 = 0.9214 euros)
(Reporting by Kirsti Knolle, Editing by Catherine Evans)