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Agip, ConocoPhillips Join Shell in Giving Up Options to Raise Stakes in CeRa Refinery

All three members of the IOC consortium – Eni/Agip, Shell andConocoPhillips– have decided not to exercise an option to purchase shares in the Czech oil refinery Ceska rafinerska (CeRa).

Shell announced its decision not to buy additional CeRa shares Monday. Eni/Agip and Conoco have since followed. Three firms will therefore maintain their minority stakes of 16.33 % in CeRa which they each hold.

The Czech petrochemical holding Unipetrol holds a 51 % stake in CeRa. Polish oil giant PKN Orlen bought Unipetrol earlier this year.

ConocoPhillips reps told the Reuters news agency the firm would acquire an unspecified stake in Unipetrol's gasoline station chain Benzina under a deal with PKN Orlen. Benzina is the largest Czech fuel retailer.

PKN Orlen is to pay CZK 13.05 bn for the 63 % stake in Unipetrol. The deal is to be completed this fall. The ownership of CeRa was one of the issues that had to be resolved before the sale can be finalized. The deal must still be approved by the Czech Anti-Monopoly Office (UOHS) and the European Commission.

The Unipetrol group consists of the wholly owned subsidiaries Chemopetrol, Kaucuk, and Benzina, and the majority-owned subsidiaries Ceska rafinerska (CeRa, 51 %), Paramo (74 %), and Spolana (80 %).

Unipetrol showed a consolidated net audited profit of CZK 1.14 bn in 1H 2004, up from CZK 495.5 mln in the same period of 2003.

(Interfax 03.ix.04)

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