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Large investors were net sellers of refining equities during tough Q1

Large investors were net sellers of U.S. refining equities in the first quarter, during which investors sold off a net 11.8 million shares of Marathon Petroleum Corp. stock.

Narrowing crude oil spreads, weak gasoline margins and refinery downtime drove first-quarter earnings, for which analysts had low expectations.

Boston Partners Global Investors Inc. sold 10 million shares of its stake in the refiner, reducing its ownership position by 79.5% to $154.2 million.

Marathon announced April 30, 2018, that it would acquire rival refiner Andeavor in a $23.3 billion deal creating the largest U.S. refiner. Amid the ongoing integration of that business, Marathon's stock has underperformed some of its peers. While executives said they are exploring selling off some small pieces of the business, they stressed that there is yet more value to unlock from the integration.

While some refining executives expressed confidence in future earnings growth from the future widening of light-heavy crude oil spreads, Marathon canceled an $800 million coker project, citing its long-term view that those spreads will remain narrow.

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