| PRAGUE, April 14
PRAGUE, April 14 Polish oil firm PKN Orlen
is in talks to buy Italian firm Eni's stake in
the Czech Republic's sole refiner, the Czech industry minister
said, a step that could lead to more investment and help secure
The sale of Eni's 32.4 percent would give local PKN unit
Unipetrol full ownership of Ceska Rafinerska after it
also bought a 16 percent stake from Shell earlier this
year for $27 million.
"(Eni) is negotiating with PKN Orlen on the conditions for
it to exit Ceska Rafinerska," Czech Industry Minister Jan Mladek
told Reuters in an interview on Monday. "We expect that PKN
Orlen will negotiate this."
PKN Orlen could not immediately be reached to comment. Eni
declined to comment.
Unipetrol has reported net losses for the past three years
including impairments on its refining assets, hurt by the
overcapacity in Europe's refining sector.
It plans to become profitable by investing $1 billion in the
coming years in plant upgrades and new projects that would more
closely integrate its refining and petrochemical businesses.
The state wants the investment in modernisation to help keep
Ceska Rafinerska's two plants open and the Czech Republic's
energy needs secure. A plan under the previous centre-right
government last year had considered that the state could buy
into the refiner.
Czech newspaper Hospodarske Noviny reported last week that
PKN Orlen had met with Mladek to propose merging two state-owned
companies - crude pipeline firm Mero and oil products pipeline
operator Cepro - with Ceska Rafinerska to create one company in
which the Polish group would have a controlling stake.
Mladek, part of a centre-left cabinet in power since
January, said PKN Orlen had presented him a proposal but
declined to say what that was or provide any details.
He said he would like to see more investment in Ceska
Rafinerska's two refineries.
"If (under-investment) continued, the refineries would
become very unmodernized and ineffective and would be threatened
with closure," Mladek said. "That is a long-term problem."
Ceska Rafinerska runs refineries in Litvinov and Kralupy
that process 8.7 million tonnes of crude oil per year.
(Writing by Jason Hovet; editing by Jane Baird)