ConocoPhillips Pulls Out of Petrom Sell-Off

Eight foreign companies have made preliminary, non-binding bids for a majority stake in state-owned oil company SNP Petrom, Romanian Economy Minister Dan Ioan Popescu said Monday.

TNK-BP and U.S. companies ConocoPhillips and Alon Inc. decided against placing a preliminary bid, out of the 11 firms the government found suitable to take part in Petrom's sell-off.

Preliminary bids, which don't contain financial offers, were submitted by: Poland's PKN Orlen SA; Hungary's MOL Rt.; Austria's OMV AG; Occidental Oil & Gas Corp.; Russia's OAO Gazprom; Italy's Eni SpA; Hellenic Petroleum SA and Switzerland's Glencore.

The Romanian government will discuss the offers with the bidding companies in the next ten days, and final bids are expected by the end of February, Popescu said. A winner should be announced by March 31.

The government is offering a 33.34% stake in Petrom, where 93% of shares are state-owned and 7% are traded publicly. The winning bidder would be obliged to raise its interest to 51% by taking up a share capital increase.

Petrom is the country's largest oil firm, with a market value estimated at $1.6 billion. The company produces some 44 million barrels of crude oil and 6.1 billion cubic meters of natural gas a year.

Its two refineries have a combined capacity of about 58 million barrels of crude a year, and its retail network comprises nearly 700 filling stations.