Ashland Hits 52-Week High

Sale of MAP share, VIOCs push profits skyward

COVINGTON, Ky. -- Ashland Inc. has reported net profit of $1.77 billion for the second quarter, including $1.5 billion from the sale of its share in a gas and oil business, said The Cincinnati Enquirer.

The results, which far exceeded the $161 million profit from the same period last year, sent the chemical and construction company's stock to a 52-week high.

On June 30, the company sold its 38% share in Marathon Ashland Petroleum LLC (MAP), its maleic anhydride business and 60 Valvoline Instant Oil Change centers.

MAP had owned and [image-nocss] operated the region's Speedway convenience stores and gas stations and also operated seven oil refineries, including ones in Canton, Ohio, and Catlettsburg, Ky., said the report.

Ashland also paid off most of its debt with the proceeds, which totaled $2.8 billion, while Houston-based Marathon Oil Corp. took over full ownership of those businesses.

Ashland's profit equated into earnings of $23.65 per share, as compared with $2.26 last year. Even without the special charges from the sale, the company's net income was $231 million, or $3.09 a share, the report said. Ashland's stock jumped $1.81, or 2.8%, and was selling at $63.80 in afternoon trading todayits highest point in the last 52 weeks.

Chairman and CEO James J. O'Brien said that in addition to the sale of its gas and oil business, which had been a part of the company for 81 years, Ashland's chemical and construction divisions had improved profits by 40% and 7% percent, respectively.

Third-quarter results were encouraging, O'Brien said. The sale of its Marathon Ashland share marked an extraordinary milestone in Ashland's history.