24 December 2002 15:10 [Source: ICIS news]
LONDON (CNI)--Italian energy and petrochemicals group Eni said Tuesday it has secured approval from the country's antitrust authority for its bid to buy full control of gas distributor Italgas.
Eni, which already owns 44% of Italgas, has offered up to Euro2.50bn ($2.57bn) for full control of Italy's dominant natural gas supplier. It has also recently agreed to acquire a 50% stake in Spanish utility Union Fenosa Gas for Euro440m and to buy the Norwegian oil company Fortum Petroleum for $1.1bn.
Italian approval of the Italgas deal plus the commitments to Fenosa and Fortum could put further pressure on Eni to conclude a swift disposal of the rubbers and latex business of its Polimeri Europa chemicals subsidiary. Three chemical companies plus several private equity firms are understood to be interested in buying the business, which generates average annual sales of around Euro650m.
Paolo Merli, an energy analyst at Intermonte Securities (part of Italian bank Monte dei Paschi), has estimated that Eni could get up to Euro400m-500m for Polimeri's rubber and latex assets, which employ some 1400 people and comprise seven manufacturing plants.
Eni has made no secret of its desire to sell most of its petrochemicals assets, retaining only those where it has a clear competitive advantage - mostly through proximity to its oil refining activities. It had hoped to sell a majority stake in Polimeri Europa to Saudi Basic Industries Corp (Sabic) but negotiations broke down and Sabic later bought the European petrochemical operations of Dutch group DSM.
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