Expatica news

Russian firm Gunvor says it has bought Antwerp refinery

Fast-growing commodities trader Gunvor said on Friday it had purchased the Antwerp oil refinery from the insolvent Swiss wholesaler Petroplus to get a foothold in Europe’s largest hub.

The Russian and Swiss co-owned, but Cyprus-registered, Gunvor group said it planned to relaunch the refinery shortly after the transaction was completed by the end of April.

“The purchase of the refinery is in line with Gunvor’s recent infrastructure investment programme and its stated strategy to become vertically integrated,” Gunvor said in a statement.

“In this context, the Antwerp refinery will become a key part of the group’s existing extensive trading activities in the (Antwerp-Rotterdam-Amsterdam) region.”

No financial details were disclosed.

Gunvor identifies itself as the world’s biggest oil trading company in Russia and is co-chaired by Prime Minister Vladimir Putin’s long-time acquaintance Gennady Timchenko.

The firm was founded in 1997 but did not record a surge in turnover until several years into Putin’s first presidential term in 2003.

Its turnover rose from $43 billion in 2007 to $69 billion in 2010 and the firm now has major operations in Geneva and Singapore and is one of the world’s largest independent commodity traders.

Timchenko has firmly denied winning favours for his business from Putin during his 2000-2008 presidency.

The Russian premier — now likely to regain the presidency in Sunday’s elections — for his part has said he never “stuck his nose” in Timchenko’s business when they built their careers in their native Saint Petersburg.

The refinery was acquired by Petroplus in 2006 and has a through capacity of 107,500 barrels per day.

Petroplus Group entered insolvency proceedings in February after failing to agree a loan deadline extension with its creditors.

Gunvor said it intended to operate the refinery on a long-term basis and retain all existing staff.