TIMELINE-Petroplus: rapid rise, darkening skies

LONDON Fri Dec 30, 2011 6:49am EST

LONDON Dec 30 (Reuters) - Swiss Petroplus struggles to keep its refineries across Europe running after aggressive acquisitions by former chairman Thomas O'Malley up to 2007 have given way to the current credit crunch, economic slowdown and financial crisis.

Before refining margins started falling sharply after the peak in 2008, Petroplus accounted for about 6 percent of Europe's total refining capacity.

Now the company holds 4.4 percent of the total, still the biggest for an independent, specialist refiner in Europe.

1993

* Petroplus International B.V. founded.

1998

* Listed on the Amsterdam Stock Exchange.

2000

* Buys the Cressier refinery in Switzerland from Royal Dutch Sell for an estimate $131 million and the Teesside refinery in the UK from PIP for an estimate $110 million.

2005

* Buys the Coryton refinery in the UK from BP for $1.4 billion

* It takes private and delisted from Euronext in Amsterdam.

2006

* Recruits Thomas O'Malley as chairman and chief executive. Karyn Ovelmen becomes chief financial officer.

Raised in a working-class New York neighbourhood, O'Malley's strategy of buying refineries, revamping them and selling them on at a profit was very effective in the United States.

O'Malley had held top positions at a number of oil concerns including Premcor, which he sold to Valero, and Tosco Corporation in the United States.

* Marcel van Poecke and Willem Willemstein, co-founders and then co-CEOs of the company, resign. Van Poecke later sets up AtlasInvest, which now holds stakes in such assets as the Wilhelmshaven refinery in Germany, trader North Sea Group and publisher Energy Intelligence.

* The roughly five years to the first half of 2008 dubbed "the golden age of refining," when the profit from making fuels such as gasoline and diesel was high.

* Petroplus completes the purchase of Belgian Refining Corporation (BRC) in Antwerp for an estimated $511 million.

* In November, Petroplus Holdings goes public in Switzerland.

2007

* Buys the Petit Couronne and Reichestett refineries in France from Shell for estimated $875 million and Ingolstadt in Germany from ExxonMobil for estimated $623 million.

* Petroplus shares hit an all time intra-day high of 115.87 swiss franc in July. BP's refining margins data archive shows its global indicator margin peaked in the second quarter 2007.

2008

* In July, Brent crude hits a record high above $147 a barrel then makes a free fall to $36.20 in December.

* O'Malley sets up PBF Energy, a joint venture of Petroplus, private equity firms Blackstone and First Reserve, and became the CEO and chairman. It has bought 540,000 bpd of refining assets in the United States, according to its website.

2009

* Britain's Teeside refinery fails to find a buyer and becomes the first European refinery to idle due to weak margins.

* Industry veteran Jean-Paul Vettier, formerly at France's Total, named as the chief executive of Petroplus.

* The company posts a loss in the third quarter, for the first time since the initial public offering.

2010

* In May, Petroplus offered shares at 17.50 swiss francs. It cuts its dividend.

* The world's top independent oil trader Vitol buys the Antwerp Batumin plant from Petroplus for about $25 million.

* It posted net profit in the second quarter and net loss in the third quarter.

* The Reichstett refinery, Petroplus' least profitable plant, fails to find a buyer. It says the plant would cease to operate as an oil refinery.

* Despite some recovery in refining margins, Petroplus' French refineries were hit by the marathon strike over French President Nicolas Sarkozy's pension reform plans.

* Petroplus, an original PBF partner, sells its stake in the JV at the end of September, four months after the company said it would use $125 million raised in a rights issue to fund its portion of a PBF acquisition.

* As of October, O'Malley holds 2.5 million Petroplus shares, then worth $31 million or just a tenth of their 2007 peak, when the company was valued at $12 billion.

* In December, Petroplus announces the retirement of O'Malley as the chairman of the board of directors.

2011

* The company posts a profit in the fourth quarter 2010, since which it has fallen back to loss. Analysts question its future.

* In November, says it has received consent from its revolving credit facility (RCF) lenders at the end of October granting the group a covenant waiver until the end of the first quarter of 2012.

* In November, PBF announces an intended IPO.

* On Dec. 27, Petroplus says lenders had frozen about $1 billion in borrowing allowances the company relies on to buy crude oil. Shares tumble by more than 40 percent in the day.

* It says on Dec. 30 it obtained a provisional financing agreement with its lenders. The shares trade around 1.74 swiss francs.

* According to the Swiss stock exchange, O'Malley's stake in Petroplus is now under 3 percent.

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