OMV favorite for Petrom

BUCHAREST (Reuters) – The World Bank said yesterday Romania was likely to sign the sale contract for its national oil company SNP Petrom with Austria’s OMV by the end of July, not June as expected. The sale of Petrom, estimated by analysts at around $1.0 billion and scheduled to be completed this month, is a key element of the country’s accords with international lenders as part of efforts to revamp its loss-making energy sector. «It is by the end of July that they (the government) are supposed to sign the sale purchase agreement,» World Bank country manager Owaise Saadat told Reuters in an interview. «That is what the International Monetary Fund requirement is. We were involved with that particular one,» he added. Government officials had said they expected the deal, seen as a key test of the country’s willingness to give up strategic assets before joining the European Union in 2007, to be signed by the end of June and no other deadline was announced. The sale of Petrom, which has around half the local fuels market, has already been repeatedly delayed – sparking fears the process may stumble on political hurdles in an election year, with national polls due on November 28. Last month, Romania named OMV as sole bidder for Petrom after Hungary’s MOL and US company Occidental Oil and Gas did not qualify.