Bloomberg News

Besson Says in Talks to Restart Petit-Couronne Refinery

February 02, 2012

(Updates with comment from minister in second paragraph.)

Feb. 2 (Bloomberg) -- French Industry Minister Eric Besson said talks are taking place with oil companies to restart Petroplus Holdings AG’s Petit-Couronne refinery in Normandy.

“My preoccupation is to restart the refinery very quickly. A refinery can’t remain stopped for too long or the restart is very costly,” he said on France Info radio today. “We are in touch with several oil companies so that it restarts quickly through processing contracts.”

An announcement could come within two weeks, he said. Besson didn’t name any oil companies.

The French government, facing elections later this year, is under pressure to curb job losses, especially at energy companies where unions remain powerful. Total SA and LyondellBasell Industries NV have also halted refineries in France, leaving the country with eight working plants compared with 24 in 1977.

Refining is “strategic” for France and the government will mobilize “financial means” so that operations at the site can continue, Besson said today.

Gary Klesch, chairman of commodity investment firm Klesch Group, said today he is interested in acquiring three plants from Petroplus including Petit-Couronne.

Klesch isn’t the only investor interested in acquiring the refinery in Normandy.

“We are interested to conduct due diligence at all the five refineries,” said Christian Kappelhoff-Wulff, director at Goldsmith Advisors AG, by phone from Zurich. “We have informed the administrators in the U.K., Germany, and Switzerland about our interest.

“We have also expressed interest in the refinery in France as of today” and are in contact with Petroplus management about the Belgian plant, he said.

--With assistance from Nidaa Bakhsh in London. Editors: Stephen Cunningham, Amanda Jordan.

To contact the reporter on this story: Tara Patel in Paris at tpatel2@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Will Kennedy at wkennedy3@bloomberg.net


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