By Tom Westcott.
Tripoli, 6 November:
Libya’s sovereign wealth fund, has voiced an interest in acquiring the Petroplus oil refinery in north-west France, . . .[restrict]which is teetering on the verge of bankruptcy.
French Industry Minister, Arnaud Montebourg said yesterday, on France’s RTL radio, that he had received a surprise letter from the Libyan Investment Authority expressing last-minute interest in the refinery, which has been given temporary government support..
The deadline for bids was yesterday. However, when Montebourg received the “non-binding letter requesting details of the case from the Libyan sovereign fund,” he asked the court to postpone its decision on the refinery’s fate.
Montebourg said that France did not want the Petit-Couronne refinery, in Normandy, to go into liquidation. “I’m going to ask the commercial court today to delay its judgment, to take the time necessary to allow our Libyan friends to invest in this refinery,” he told RTL.
Dubai-based NetOil also jumped in with a last-minute offer yesterday afternoon, after an earlier bid was rejected. Their new offer, a deal between NetOil, BP and Hyundai, is apparently incomplete, according to administrators.
In a further twist, NetOil’s Roger Tamraz told Reuters that they might be open to a joint deal with Libya. “We welcome Libya, we know them well since we were with them in Tamoil,” Tamraz said.
Five further businesses, including two Swiss companies and Iraq’s Jabs Gulf Energy Ltd, reportedly submitted letters of intent today. This sudden flurry of interest has led the French court in Rouen to extend the deadline for bidding to 13 November.
In 24 hours, the Petit-Couronne refinery has gone from being an unwanted Cinderella to an apparently highly-desirable asset.
Switzerland-headquartered Petroplus was Europe’s largest independent oil refiner until it filed for bankruptcy in January. Of the five refineries it owned, three have been sold and one has been converted into an oil terminal. The French government made a deal with Royal Dutch Shell PLC to keep the Petit-Couronne refinery operating until this December. [/restrict]