Regulators approve Unipetrol’s purchase of Czech refinery

Unipetrol AS’s plan to acquire soon-to-be former partner Eni SPA’s interest in Ceska Rafinerska AS (CRC) to become the plant’s sole owner would not violate state antitrust laws, the Czech Republic’s Office for the Protection of Competition (UOHS) said on Dec. 19.

After examining the transaction in relation to the wholesale marketing of petroleum products in the relevant regional markets, Unipetrol’s purchase of Eni’s shares in CRC does not raise fears of any substantial distortions of competition, according to a statement from UOHS, the central authority of state administration responsible for ensuring a competitive business environment.

The preliminary ruling, once finalized, will permit Unipetrol, a subsidiary of Polski Koncern Naftowy SA (PKN Orlen), to take full ownership of the refinery, UOHS said.

UOHS’s decision follows Unipetrol’s decision in July to exercise its right of preemption to purchase Eni’s nearly 32.5% stake in CRC for about $40.8 million after Eni entered preliminary negotiations in May to sell its shares in the refinery to Hungary’s MOL Group (OGJ Online, July 3, 2014; May 7, 2014).

Unipetrol’s buyout follows the company’s overall strategy for 2013-17, released in June 2013, in which the operator said it planned to increase capital spending on projects designed to further integrate the refining and petrochemical segments of its business in order to guarantee secure feedstock supplies for its petrochemical operations.

The transaction is scheduled to be completed by yearend, Unipetrol said in July.

CRC operates Czech Republic’s only two running refineries—in Litvinov and Kralupy—which have a combined crude oil processing capacity of 8.7 million tonnes/year, according to Unipetrol.

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