Libyan fund 'interested in French refinery'

PETIT-COURONNE, France / Seine-Maritime (AFP) - Libya's sovereign wealth fund was said to be interested in taking over the Petroplus oil refinery in northwestern France, which is currently in bankruptcy proceedings, as the deadline for bids expired on Monday.

France's Industry Minister Arnaud Montebourg said Monday he had received a letter from Libya's sovereign wealth fund, the Libyan Investment Authority, saying they would like to examine the possibility of investing in the refinery near Rouen in France's Normandy region.

"I will request the commercial court delay their judgement to give time to our Libyan friends to consider investing in the refinery," Montebourg said on RTL radio.

The deadline for offers to take over the site that employs 470 people was set by the court for 1600 GMT on Monday, but Petroplus and union sources said the court could decide to extend the deadline.

Last month the court ordered the Petit-Couronne refinery be liquidated, rejecting two takeover offers from Dubai-based NetOil and Alafandi Petroleum Group, which is based in Hong Kong.

But the court allowed the refinery to continue operating for two months.

Other companies were thought to be interested in bidding for the refinery.

An industry executive called the potential bid a surprise, although the Libyans have invested in European refineries. He said Libyans had no need for refinery capacity in order to ensure crude sales in Europe.

The Anglo-Dutch oil group Shell owned the Petit-Couronne refinery from its creation in 1929 to its sale to Petroplus, a Swiss company, in 2008.

A year ago, Petroplus said it intended to restructure operations at the refinery, but put the site up for sale after filing for bankruptcy protection in January.