Petroplus suitor not keen on Swiss refineries

Gary Klesch, head of the Swiss Klesch investment group, is interested in several assets of embattled oil refiner Petroplus but said he had no desire to snap up its Swiss operations.

Last week, Klesch said he was interested in buying the Petit-Couronne refinery in France as it stopped production after Petroplus filed for bankruptcy.

“We are also interested in Coryton in England and Ingolstadt in Germany,” he was quoted as saying in the Bulletin de l’Industrie Petroliere, an industry publication.

“If we buy them, we will upgrade the refineries by applying our specific strategies and work methods,” Klesch said, without giving more details.

As regards Petit-Couronne, he said the deal must be “done now or never. The longer a refinery is shut down, the more difficult it becomes to put it back into operation.”

Petroplus owns two other refineries facing closure — Antwerp in Belgium and Cressier in Switzerland — but Klesch said he had no interest in the Swiss operations, which he described as too small and connected to an unreliable supply pipeline from Marseille, southern France.

Swiss based Petroplus, with $1.75 billion in outstanding debt, was forced to seek creditor protection after the failure of talks with lenders to reopen vital credit lines.

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Petroplus denies fraud allegations

Swiss-based oil refiner Petroplus on Thursday denied French allegations of fraud after prosecutors launched an investigation into the beleaguered firm.

Petroplus denies fraud allegations
Mick Garratt (File)

The company said in a statement that it “refuted all allegations of fraudulent bankruptcy in France” following a probe into funds allegedly missing from the accounts of its French subsidiary.

Petroplus said that at the opening of business on January 23rd, the total balances on bank accounts held by Petroplus Marketing France SAS at Deutsche Bank were €124 million and $59 million.

“During that day Deutsche Bank, one of the lenders under the Revolving Credit Facility (RCF), transferred €122 million and $59 million of this cash that was held on accounts pledged under the RCF out of these accounts,” the firm said.

“No Petroplus legal entity provided any instructions or took any actions to transfer these funds from these French accounts.”

Petroplus said late on Wednesday that several of its subsidiaries in France had filed for judicial assistance.

They include Petroplus Holdings France SAS, Petroplus Marketing France SAS, Petroplus Raffinage Reichstett SAS and Petroplus Raffinage Petit-Couronne SAS, which owns the Petit Couronne refinery in Normandy.

Petroplus, with $1.75 billion (€1.3 billion) in outstanding debt, had been negotiating for weeks with lenders to reopen credit lines needed to maintain operations, said last week it would sell the French plant.