* Libyan Investment Authority chairman says still mulling
* French PM's office confirms Libya has signed
By Muriel Boselli and Ali Shuaib
PARIS/TRIPOLI, Nov 28 Libya has not withdrawn
its bid to buy France's troubled Petit-Couronne oil refinery,
the French government and the Libyan sovereign fund said on
Wednesday, dispelling contradictory comments on the bid by the
authorities in Paris.
French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said on France Inter
radio early on Wednesday that Libya was no longer interested in
buying the refinery owned by insolvent Swiss refiner Petroplus.
Reacting to Fabius's comments, Industry Minister Arnaud
Montebourg told Reuters this was not true.
"The Libyans have signed a confidentiality agreement
yesterday," Montebourg said at an energy conference. "This does
not mean they will buy but they are studying (the purchase)," he
The French Prime Minister's office confirmed to Reuters a
confidentiality agreement had been signed with the Libyan fund.
"The minister has received a letter of intent from the
Libyan fund and received yesterday some additional information.
He is doing checks today on the validity of these intentions and
additional information," Najat Vallaud-Belkacem, the government
spokeswoman said on Wednesday.
The French media reported this week the Libyan Investment
Authority had withdrawn its bid to take over the refinery, the
oldest in France, citing a report from Libya's LANA news agency.
The chairman of the Libyan Investment Authority, Mohsen
Derregia, who told Reuters last week they had started due
diligence to invest in the refinery and would send a team to
France to evaluate the investment opportunity, also confirmed on
Wednesday it was still mulling an offer.
"We never said we are buying the refinery. Our team are
still studying the project, they will give us the result and
then we will make the decision whether to invest or not. As we
said in our statement, we will only invest in projects that are
a benefit for Libya," Derregia told Reuters.
Montebourg said earlier this month he had received a
non-binding letter of interest from Libya's sovereign wealth
fund to buy the refinery, situated in Normandy, northern France.
The 470 workers at the 161,000 barrels-a-day Petit-Couronne
refinery are in a race against time to find a new buyer, as an
oil reprocessing deal with former owner Shell is due to stop
Other bidders include NetOil, a firm led by Middle Eastern
businessman Roger Tamraz, which submitted an improved offer
after a court in Rouen in northern France rejected its initial
bid on financial and technical grounds earlier this month.
The court has set a new deadline of Feb. 5, 2013 for
interested parties to submit bids for the refinery and will
review offers next week.
(Additional reporting by John Irish, Jean-Baptiste Vey, Michel
Rose, Julien Ponthus and Elizabeth Pineau in Paris; editing by