Shell Rules Out Purchase Of Czech Oil Refiner

Royal Dutch Shell has ruled out buying a majority stake in the Czech oil refining firm Ceska Rafinerska which has been put up for sale by Unipetrol, echoing the decision by the US Conoco group.

“Right now we are satisfied with our holdings. I would not like to speculate on any future offer,” Shell Czech Republic Director Pavel Senych said today.

Unipetrol's offer to sell its fifty one percent stake in the group will expire on Friday. Shell is one of Rafinerska's minority shareholders with a 16.3 percent stake.

Late on Wednesday the US oil company Conoco said that it would not participate in the offer, but added it was still interested in raising its stake in the future.

Another minority shareholder in Rafinerska, Italy's Agip, a unit of ENI, was not immediately available to comment on the Unipetrol offer.

Unipetrol made a bid to sell its Rafinerska stake to minority shareholders after the government agreed to sell its sixty three percent stake in Unipetrol to closely held Czech group Agrofert.

Unipetrol, which owns companies buying refined oil products from Rafinerska, has been locked in a long running price dispute with the refinery despite having a majority stake there.

Rafinerska cut off feedstock supplies to Unipetrol's petrochemical units over the weekend before a stop-gap agreement was reached on Sunday.

Conoco said it was also still interested in taking a stake in Unipetrol's petrol station chain Benzina, the largest fuel retailer in the Czech Republic.

Agrofert is widely expected to continue its efforts to sell Rafinerska and Benzina to help finance its pending 361 million euro takeover of Unipetrol.

The deal has been awaiting antitrust approval, with the authorities saying Agrofert has been slowing the process with delays in providing documents.

Unipetrol shares have been highly volatile amid uncertainty surrounding the takeover and due to what analysts said was investors' aversion to the little-known, unlisted Agrofert.

The stock closed slightly lower at 42.5 crowns on Wednesday ahead of the news in a flat overall market.

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