Orlen waffles on selling refinery

VILNIUS — It appears PKN Orlen is vacillating in its deciding to put its Lithuanian oil refinery on sale.

During a meeting with Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaitė on Wednesday, Polish President Bronisław Komorowski said that the partially state-owned PKN Orlen will not be selling the Orlen Lietuva refinery in Mažeikiai, Lithuania.

In statements to the Polish business newspaper Parkiet, Grybauskaitė said that “there is no question of selling. I received this assurance from President Komorowski.”

The same day, Orlen Lietuva CEO Ireneusz Fąfara met with Lithuanian Prime Minister Andrius Kubilius in Vilnius and said that selling was only “one of several options.”

Fąfara confirmed that the overriding objective was to improve the profitability of the Mazeikiu refinery.

The Lithuanian government sold Mažeikių Nafta in 2006 with a record Polish investment abroad of €1.7 billion. However since then the purchase had not been profitable for the Poles. Orlen Lietuva is under-performing financially, partly because it is forced to import crude through the Būtingė terminal, which is more expensive than taking on Russian crude via pipeline.

Moscow clearly covets the refinery, and in 2006 was so angered by Lithuania’s decision to sell the asset to the Poles that it staged a pipeline accident in Belarus and thereby cut off supplies of crude to Mažeikiai, the small city adjacent to the refinery in northwest Lithuania. Four years later, the pipe is still dry.

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