Moroccan court extends liquidation deadline for oil refiner Samir

RABAT, Dec 19 (Reuters) - A Moroccan court has given the trustee who controls Samir, the country’s only oil refinery, another three months to finish the liquidation process and will invite expressions of interest in buying the plant in the coming days, the court-appointed trustee said on Monday.

The 200,000 barrels a day refinery was shut down in August due to financial difficulties and a court ruling then placed it in liquidation and named an independent trustee to run it.

Its closure has made Morocco reliant on oil product imports at a time when the North African kingdom is seeking to get its finances back on track by tackling huge budget deficits.

The trustee, Mohamed El-Krimi, told Reuters the court has responded positively to his request for an extension to the deadline for completing the liquidation process for another three months.

“We asked only for three months as we will invite investors to submit expression of interests in the coming days, likely in a week,” El-Krimi said.

A ruling had given the new managing team until December 21 to restart the refinery in an effort to secure a buyer and a better price.

Attempts so far to restart production before seeking a buyer have been frustrated by difficulties in finding a supply of crude oil.

However, restarting production remains a prerequisite for investors, who will be invited to submit expressions of interest in Samir, El-Krimi told Reuters last month.

The court has been working to evaluate the company’s assets and debt since 2015, when a judge ordered its liquidation.

Samir, in which Saudi billionaire Mohammed al-Amoudi’s Corral Holdings had a 67.26 percent stake, has been battling creditors ranging from oil traders to banks.

The Moroccan government says Samir owes it 13 billion dirhams ($1.33 billion) in taxes and its total debt is hovering around 44 billion dirhams.

At just under 300,000 barrels per day, Morocco’s national petroleum consumption is Africa’s fifth largest, according to data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration (Reporting By Aziz El Yaakoubi; Editing by Greg Mahlich)