Methanex ‘logical buyer’ for BP’s Atlas methanol stake – analyst

06 August 2010 14:47  [Source: ICIS news]

TORONTO (ICIS)--Methanex would be the “logical buyer” for BP’s 36.9% stake in the two firms’ 1.7m tonne/year Atlas methanol joint venture in Trinidad, a Canadian analyst said on Friday.

BP is under pressure to sell assets to pay for the massive Gulf of Mexico oil spill.

Chemical assets sales, including the Atlas stake, would be an option for BP, John Cummings, an independent Toronto-based petrochemicals analyst, said in a research note to clients.

While BP had sold major chemical assets in past years, it remained a major producer of paraxylene, acetic acid and acetyls, Cummings said. Some BP chemical assets, including Atlas, were held in joint ventures, he said.

But Cummings noted that selling the Atlas stake – estimated to be worth at most $300m (€228m) - would add only little, when compared with the billions of dollars BP is seeking to raise through upstream oil and gas asset divestments..

Vancouver-based Methanex, for its part, has said it would want to buy the stake, should it come up for sale.

“To the extent that they [BP] want to monetise that [Atlas] stake, we want to be the 100% owner of that plant, there is no question,” chief executive Bruce Aitken told analysts during the company’s second-quarter results conference call.

However, Aitken said Methanex had an “outstanding relationship” with BP in Trinidad and was “not anxious to see them depart,” Aitken said.

Longer-term, Methanex was interested in natural gas drilling in Trinidad, where BP was a big gas producer, he added.

“We are not going to do anything to accelerate [BP’s] decision, and I am sure they have much bigger things to worry about today than worrying about their share in the methanol plant,” Aitken added.

As for Trinidad’s other major methanol producer, Methanol Holdings (Trinidad) Limited (MHTL), Aitken said the Trinidad government seemed to want to continue as a significant owner.

There had been speculation last year that Methanex could acquire control of MHTL after the firm's majority stakeholder came under pressure during the financial crisis and was bailed out by Trinidad's central bank.

Meanwhile, BP on Tuesday announced it would sell its oil and gas assets in Columbia for $1.9bn to that country’s Ecopetrol and Canada’s Talisman Energy. Talisman, which was formed in 1992 out of assets of BP in Canada, is led by John Manzoni, BP’s former head of refining and marketing.

BP also said it was seeking buyers for upstream assets in Pakistan and Vietnam.

Last month, BP said it would raise $7bn through assets sales in the US, Canada and Egypt to Apache.

($1 = €0.76)

For more on Methanex, BP and other producers visit ICIS company intelligence
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By: Stefan Baumgarten
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