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April 25 (Reuters) - U.S. independent refiner Valero Energy Corp reported less bearish than feared quarterly revenue and profit numbers on Thursday, as it sought to offset the impact of higher prices of heavy Canadian crude following Alberta's mandatory production cuts.
Alberta's OPEC-style decision to force production cuts, combined with the U.S. sanction on Venezuelan crude, has limited the heavy oil supply, pushing crude prices up. Valero, one of the largest buyers of Venezuelan crude in the United States earlier, has been substituting light crude oil from North America and other sources to make up for the lack of Venezuelan heavy crude, impacting refining margins.
"Positive results in this macro backdrop are a testament to the quality of the portfolio and previous capital projects that lead to improved performance," Simmons Energy analyst Blake Fernandez said in a note.
Refining margins, or the difference between crude prices and average selling price of refined products, fell about 10 percent to $2 billion. However, analysts at Morgan Stanley said the beat was due to better-than-expected refining margins in the Gulf Coast and North Atlantic.
"Investments to increase our system's flexibility and the team's relentless focus on safety enabled us to capture good margins in an otherwise weak margin environment," Chief Executive Officer Joe Gorder said in a statement.
The refiner's utilization rate reached 91 percent. Throughput volumes, or the total volume of crude oil refined, averaged 2.9 million barrels per day in the quarter.
Net income attributable to Valero fell to $141 million, or 34 cents per share, in the quarter ended March 31, from $469 million, or $1.09 per share, a year earlier.
Analysts on average had expected the company to post a profit of 23 cents per share, according to IBES data from Refinitiv.
The company's quarterly revenue for the quarter was $24.26 billion, beating expectations of $21.51 billion.
Valero is the first major U.S. refiner to post results this quarter and Morgan Stanley analysts said the earnings beat may suggest that results for the rest of the industry could be slightly better than feared.
Reporting by Arundhati Sarkar in Bengaluru; Editing by James Emmanuel