Partnership will bid for U.S. oil refineries

From Reuters

Petroplus Holdings, Europe's largest refiner, said Wednesday that it had entered into a $2-billion deal with private equity firms Blackstone Group and First Reserve to buy crude oil refineries in the United States.

Each partner has committed $667 million to form an investment company to be led by Petroplus Chairman Thomas D. O'Malley.

Petroplus is interested in acquiring Valero Energy Corp.'s 275,000-barrel-per-day refinery on the Dutch Caribbean island of Aruba, according to a source within the industry. The Swiss company also is interested in Valero's Memphis, Tenn., and Paulsboro, N.J., refineries, another industry source said.

Although the Aruba refinery is not in the U.S., Valero considers it to be part of its Gulf Coast system because it supplies intermediate feedstock to refineries in Texas and Louisiana. The Aruba plant was expected to sell for in the neighborhood of $4.1 billion.

San Antonio-based Valero, the largest U.S. refiner, has expressed interest in selling its Memphis and Krotz Spring, La., refineries.

Several sources have said Valero also is considering selling its refinery in Paulsboro, N.J., acquired from Mobil Corp. in 1998.

A spokesman for Valero declined to comment.

Petroplus' O'Malley has presided over a period of rapid expansion at Petroplus, taking it onto the Zurich, Switzerland, stock exchange and buying a string of refineries to expand operations in Belgium, Britain, Switzerland, Germany and France.

Petroplus has been at the forefront of a boom of small refiners not affiliated to the global oil majors such as Royal Dutch Shell, BP and Exxon Mobil Corp.

O'Malley was a key figure in the surge of independents in the U.S., which is being repeated in Europe. He built up Tosco Corp. before selling the company to Phillips Petroleum, which then merged to form ConocoPhillips.

In 2002, Blackstone Group brought O'Malley to run refiner Premcor, which was sold to Valero in 2005.

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