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Hellenic Petroleum, partners may bid for NIS, Serbia's refiner

Hellenic Petroleum SA, Greece's largest oil refiner, said it may join with other oil companies and submit a bid for a stake in Serbia's state-owned refinery, Naftna Industrija Srbije, (NIS).

“The idea is to form a consortium with partners, which are strategic investors,” Hellenic Petroleum Chief Executive Officer Panos Kavoulakos said in an interview during a conference in Budapest. “We are in talks” with possible partners, he added, without naming the companies. Hellenic has expressed interest in buying a 25% stake in NIS and will decide whether to make a binding bid once the detailed terms of the sale are made public, Kavoulakos said. European oil companies are looking to the Balkans, where economies and fuel use are growing faster than they are in the west. OMV AG of Austria, which bought Romanian refiner SNP Petrom SA last year and Mol Nyrt. of Hungary, which won the bidding for a Bosnian fuel trader Energopetrol, said October 13 they may also try to buy the NIS stake.

The Greek company had “preliminary” talks about a joint bid for NIS with OMV and Mol, Hellenic spokesman Evangelos Stranis said April 11. Kavoulakos declined to say today whether possible partners in a joint offer would include OMV or Mol. Serbia will postpone selling NIS until the country adopts a new constitution and a new government is formed, radio station B92 reported October 13, citing Economy Minister Predrag Bubalo. The country originally planned to select the buyer by the end of this year, B92 said, citing the minister. Serbia's parliamentary elections are expected to be held in December if the country adopts a new constitution in a referendum scheduled for October 28 and 29. (Bloomberg)