Z Energy feels pain at pump as profit slumps 147 percent under lockdown

Fuel company Z Energy has seen its profit slump 147 percent, in its first-ever financial loss.

COVID-19 restrictions have caused a significant drop in the use of petrol and jet fuel.

The country's biggest fuel retailer is feeling the pain at the pump after an annual loss of $88 million.

"We were fortunate that we are an essential business, so we were able to operate during lockdown level 4 and 3," says Mike Bennetts, CEO at Z Energy.

"However our sales were still down 80 percent and I don't think any business can work economically when your sales are down by that quantum."

Travel restrictions have put our fuel-guzzling habits on hold.

"The reality is, look we've been at home, people haven't been going to work, they haven't been able to do much travel, so they're not buying fuel and fuel sales are well down," AA spokesman Mark Stockdale says.

Z Energy's data shows fuel sales to the public dropped 80 percent under alert level 4 and by 45 percent under level 3.

And sales of jet fuel dropped 85 percent under Level 4, and by 80 percent in level 3.

Z is promising it won't increase petrol prices to ease the pressure.

"There's no need for us to do that. This is just a timing thing," Bennetts says.

But it does want its shareholders to pay up, to the tune of $350 million to help keep it afloat.

It will also cut costs by 15 percent - a saving of $96 million.

Competitors are feeling the pinch too.

"When you have been out and about you've noticed the roads are really empty," says Gull general manager Dave Bodger. "That hits us."

And issues are flowing through to suppliers like Refining New Zealand - the country's only importer and processor of oil - with too much product and not enough demand.