LJUBLJANA – Slovenia’s largest petrol retailer Petrol said yesterday it is due to sign a 50-50 percent joint venture contract with Montenegro’s oil company Montenegro Bonus by the end of July. Petrol was chosen in May for the joint venture, which will sell and store oil products as well as build petrol stations and gas pipelines in the small Adriatic country. «The contract is expected to be signed later this month,» Petrol’s Chief Executive Marko Kryzanowski told reporters. He also said Petrol and Russian oil giant Lukoil will decide in the autumn whether to proceed with a joint venture plan that would include some 565 petrol stations across the former Yugoslavia that Petrol and Lukoil currently own. «In autumn, evaluation of stakes of both companies will be completed and then we will decide how to proceed,» said Kryzanowski, adding that Petrol’s stake had to be evaluated on the basis of its current market value. Petrol shares have jumped 63 percent to -805 since the start of the year, reflecting a 70 percent rise in the blue chip SBI index in the same period. Petrol and Lukoil said last August they planned a joint venture by the end of 2006, but that was postponed. Good prospects Kryzanowski also said Petrol’s good business trends, reported in the first quarter of this year, continued in the second quarter. He said the company had overcome a drop in sales of petrol products, due to an unusually warm winter, by increasing sales of additional products and services, particularly tires. Petrol in April reported a 44 percent rise in group net profit to -9.8 million in the first quarter, although net sales fell 1.8 percent to -426.4 million. »Trends in the first half of the year were good and we expect they will remain such until the end of the year,» said Kryzanowski. Half-year result will be published on August 28. Petrol has some 364 petrol stations in Slovenia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia and Serbia and plans to raise this number to 382 by the end of the year. It also plans to expand into Albania and the UN-run Serbian province of Kosovo in the following months. The company, which at present has no refining capacities, is considering buying an oil refinery in Italy’s Mantova.