ECONOMY

Lukoil to upgrade Neftochim

BURGAS, Bulgaria – Russian oil major Lukoil said yesterday it would invest $130 million to complete the modernization of its Bulgarian refinery Neftochim Burgas next year. Lukoil’s President Vagit Alekperov confirmed plans to expand Neftochim’s export markets in Southeast Europe, including Turkey, after modernizing the refinery. «We have received a license by the Turkish government, allowing imports of Bulgarian fuel,» Alekperov told a news conference in the Black Sea city of Burgas, where its Bulgarian unit is located. «We are carrying out various projects on acquiring assets for product sales in the European part of Turkey because it is closer to Bulgaria,» Alekperov said, but did not give more details on the possible acquisitions. Late last month he said Lukoil was also interested in the wholesale of its products to the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. The company reported in a statement earlier yesterday that its exports to the West would rise 25 percent this year and it was increasing spending on refineries abroad to boost profits. Last month the Russian company signed a deal with Serbia to buy a 79.5 percent stake in Beopetrol, Serbia’s second-largest fuel chain, for 117 million euros ($136 million). Lukoil acquired a 58 percent stake in the Neftochim refinery, Bulgaria’s biggest, for $101 million in late 1999 and pledged to invest $408.3 million in it by 2005. It has so far invested $350 million in Neftochim. Alekperov said Lukoil planned to complete Neftochim’s modernization next year, which would enable it to comply with European Union standards. Lukoil’s board members arrived in Bulgaria on Wednesday to mark Neftochim’s 40-year anniversary.