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Vietnam to partly privatize top fuel importer Petrolimex

In Hungary

Vietnam will partly privatize top state-owned fuel importer and distributor Petrolimex to raise funds to expand its downstream business, the government said.

Petrolimex should always maintain its status as the main oil and gas trading business, even after its upcoming equitisation,” Deputy Prime Minister Hoang Trung Hai said in a government report, referring to the plan to convert the firm into a share-holding group.

Hai did not specify when the Hanoi-based company would start selling shares.

Vietnam has been slowly relaxing its grip on the oil and gas industry by giving exploration rights to foreign firms and letting subsidiaries of major firms such as Petrolimex list shares.

Last week, it allowed fuel distributors to set their own retail prices.

Petrolimex, which commands about 60% of the domestic market for refined oil products, earned 750 billion dong ($46.4 million) in net profit in the first eight months of 2008 on revenue of 84.5 trillion dong.

No foreign firms operate pump stations in the Southeast Asian country although the government has promised to allow foreign investors in the second refinery, Nghi Son, to participate in the retail market before the refinery is completed in 2013.

Petrolimex, which operates 1,800 pump stations and 65 oil depots nationwide, also paid 11.6 trillion dong in taxes during the period, the report said.

Petrolimex has privatized several of its units including Petrolimex Tanker, Petrolimex Gas and Petrolimex Petrochemical, but keeps full control over its core oil product import business.

Vietnam relies almost entirely on oil-product imports as it lacks oil refineries.

The country's first refinery, the 140,000-barrels-per-day Dung Quat plant, is expected to come onstream next February and meet about 40% of domestic demand for refined oil products. (Reuters)

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