UPDATE 3-PBF Energy posts smaller loss as travel recovery boosts fuel demand

(Adds comments from conference call; shares)

April 29 (Reuters) - PBF Energy Inc reported a smaller-than-expected quarterly loss on Thursday as the refiner benefited from lower costs and a recovery in fuel demand on the back of rapid vaccine rollouts and a pickup in travel in the United States.

Shares of the company were up 6.4% at $15.21 in morning trade.

Fuel consumption has ticked up in recent months as more people start to drive again following vaccinations and the easing of government-imposed restrictions, particularly in the United States.

In a post-earnings call, PBF management said travel demand in the United States has started “to come up pretty nicely”, while international travel is recovering at a slower pace.

“We ran higher in March than we did in January, and that reflects more favorable market conditions as the progressive vaccine rollout lead to improving demand,” Chief Executive Officer Tom Nimbley said in a statement.

The company also said it was expecting to run its refineries at a higher rate in the current quarter.

Analysts at Credit Suisse said U.S. refined product demand would make a full recovery in the next three to four months, and PBF’s focus on the country positions it well to “outperform global peers.”

PBF’s total crude oil and feedstock throughput in the reported quarter came in at 67.1 million barrels, up 7.7% from prior quarter, while gross refining margin, excluding special items, jumped four-fold to $244.6 million sequentially.

Its total costs and expenses in the first quarter dropped 26.6% to $4.87 billion a year earlier, as PBF undertook a broad restructuring to cope with the pandemic.

That helped the Parsippany, New Jersey-based refiner post an adjusted loss of $2.61 per share in the first quarter ended March 31, smaller than Wall Street’s expectation of $2.63 per share, according to Refinitiv IBES. (Reporting by Arunima Kumar in Bengaluru, Editing by Sherry Jacob-Phillips and Anil D’Silva)