There are more to numbers and figures than what meets the eye. Despite the announcement of yet another loss for fiscal 2010, Western Refining (NYSE: WNR) has actually made substantial progress compared to 2009.

In my previous article, I appeared quite optimistic about Western's overall business model along with some of its business moves. These, I believe, are the reasons for the turnaround in its earnings that were released last week. It's true that the company failed to replicate the success of its second- and third-quarter results in the fourth quarter and lost a bit of momentum. However, it also managed to trim its net loss sharply to $17 million in 2010 from $350.6 million the previous year. Keep in mind that the effect of a relatively substantial loss takes time to wear off. And this is largely true for a small-cap company like Western (market cap $1.49 billion).

A comparison
From September, production has dropped by 21% as the company has shuttered its Yorkshire refinery because of weak refining margins. Now, Western is in talks to sell off the facility -- a move that is likely to improve its cash position and bring down debt.

During the quarter, total revenue climbed 17% while gross profit rose 4.3%. Earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization rose by 3.2% to $257 million. Compare that with Alon USA Energy (NYSE: ALJ) -- another CAPS four-star stock -- which took on substantial losses for itself, including a negative EBITDA of $138 million as of Sept. 30, 2010.

The reason I am stressing on EBITDA is because this value shows the operational earnings of a company, rather than reflects any non-cash or other benefits the company might have had.

Another encouraging signal is the return on equity showing healthy signs of recovery -- from -46.8% to -2.5%. Again, I am talking about just the past two years because the earnings were dragged down by excess capacity, which was attributed to low demand following the oil price rise in 2008. As a refinery, Western is recovering steadily, and that is why I'm optimistic on this business.

The Foolish bottom line
I believe refineries like Western will crawl back to the pre-crisis days and be better prepared to face hikes in oil prices. What are your views on this company? Let us know in the comments box below.

Isac Simon does not own shares of any of the companies mentioned in this article. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.