French government pledges help for troubled Swiss refiner Petroplus

28 December 2011 20:39  [Source: ICIS news]

LONDON (ICIS)--The French government promised on Wednesday to help independent refiner Petroplus in its negotiations with banks.

The announcement came after Petroplus said this week that banks had frozen some $1bn (€770m) in “critical” credit lines, raising the spectre that the company may not be able to buy crude oil to keep its five refineries in Europe running.

French economics and industry ministers, François Baroin and Eric Besson, said in a joint statement while Petroplus is based in Switzerland, it has a refinery employing a staff of 550 at Petit-Couronne in France’s Seine-Maritime region.

"Even though Petroplus is a Swiss company and the banks are mainly foreign banks, France’s state services are fully mobilised to help [Petroplus] to continue operating in France,” Besson said.

The participating French banks had expressed a willingness to help fund Petroplus as part of an overall deal to be agreed by all of the company's lenders, he said.

In their statement, the ministers added that the French and the overall European refining sector needed to take steps to strengthen their competitiveness.

In addition to Petit-Couronne, Petroplus owns and operates refineries at Coryton UK; Antwerp; Ingolstadt, Germany; and Cressier, Switzerland.

Petroplus' refineries have a combined throughput capacity of about 667,000 bbl/day.

For the nine months ended 30 September 2011, Petroplus reported a net loss of $413m, compared with a net loss of $250m in the same period in 2010.

Petroplus' shares were down 10.8% to Swiss francs (Swfr) 1.65 on Switzerland’s SIX stock exchange at 20:02 Swiss local time.

($1 = €0.77)

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