ECONOMY

Problems with refiner sale

The Latsis group and Russian oil giant Lukoil, the consortium currently in talks with the government on the acquisition of a 23 percent stake in Hellenic Petroleum, has asked for a 15 percent reduction in its 454-million-euro offer and management of the oil refiner, Hellenic Petroleum workers said yesterday. Nikos Orfanos, head of the Panhellenic Workers’ Union of Hellenic Petroleum, told reporters that the joint bidders were using as an excuse the oil refiner’s loss of an option to take up an additional 35 percent stake in gas utility DEPA. «Our sources tell us that Latsis and Lukoil are seeking to cut their offer price by 15 percent, arguing that Hellenic Petroleum no longer has its DEPA option. Latsis is also asking for management control,» he said. Latsis and Lukoil were selected as the preferred bidder for Hellenic Petroleum early this year with an offer of 454 million euros for a 23.17 percent stake. Negotiations, however, have dragged on for months with no positive outcome in sight, making it likely that the issue will be carried over to next year. Orfanos also reiterated the workers’ argument that the oil refiner can expand on its own without a strategic partner. He said the company’s results and recent acquisitions were clear evidence of its ability to grow without outside help. Hellenic Petroleum posted a 43 percent jump in group pretax profits in the first nine months of the year. In October, it took a majority stake in Montenegrin oil company Yugopetrol and BP’s inland and retail fuel businesses in Cyprus. The management has said that expansion plans will go ahead regardless of the outcome of the privatization sale. Orfanos said the oil refiner can expand into upstream operations in other countries, taking a leaf from its joint ventures in Albania and Libya where it has teamed up with other companies.