ECONOMY

HELPE eyes Serbia oil privatization

BUDAPEST (Reuters) – Greece’s largest refiner, Hellenic Petroleum (HELPE), is planning to participate in the privatization of Serbia’s oil sector, its chief executive officer, Panos Cavoulacos, said yesterday. Serbian Finance Minister Mladjan Dinkic said on Monday that all major privatizations would be postponed and left to a new government to handle next year. The Serbian government is expect to call an early general election this December. The government had planned to sell 25 percent of Serbian oil monopoly NIS, with a total nominal value of $1.2 billion, this month. «We need to manage the upgrading of refineries (in Serbia) in the context of current and future supply-demand balance,» Cavoulacos said on the sidelines of a refinery conference in Budapest. «If Serbia gets out of the postwar situation, and once the problems are resolved, Serbia will re-engage in economic growth; it will become a big market as it was in the past,» he added. «If that happens soon, it will mean growth in capacity sooner.» In Greece, HELPE is spending $700 million to build a 40,000 barrels-per-day hydrocracker and a 21,000 bpd coker at its Elefsina refinery in the south of the country. In northern Greece, it plans to expand crude distillation capacity at its Thessaloniki refinery to 83,000 bpd from 72,000 bpd. «This refinery has an oversized diesel desulfurization unit,» Cavoulacos said. «So the additional capacity will allow us to make more diesel.» Privatization advisers Merril Lynch and Raiffeisen Investment held meetings on the proposed NIS sell-off with several foreign companies earlier this year, including Hellenic Petroleum and Poland’s PKN Orlen. A senior PKN executive said during the Budapest conference on Wednesday that his company was monitoring the NIS developments and that it was weighing up investment opportunities in Southern, Central and Eastern Europe.