France’s Petit-Couronne Refinery to Shut After Bids Rejected

Petroplus Holdings AG’s Petit-Couronne refinery in Normandy will shut for good after a court rejected all offers for the crude-processing plant.

The court in Rouen ruled that bids from Murzuk Oil and Netoil Inc. failed to contain financial and technical means to “ensure a lasting takeover,” according to a statement from Petroplus.

The company administering the refinery will cease operations and a procedure to fire staff will begin in the coming days, Petroplus said. French Industry Minister Arnaud Montebourg confirmed in a statement that the court decision ends the search for buyers.

The fate of the 154,000-barrel-a-day refinery has hung in the balance since Zug, Switzerland-based Petroplus filed for insolvency in January 2012. Administrators rejected five bids in February while a final decision was repeatedly pushed back by the court until today.

“It was up to bidders to prove to the court of their ability to offer a new life to Petit-Couronne,” Montebourg said in the statement. “This unfortunately wasn’t the case.”

Pressure to lower European refining capacity through plant closures will continue this year as regional demand for oil products falls, the French oil lobby Union Francaise des Industries Petrolieres has said.

LyondellBasell Industries NV and Total SA have stopped refining at sites in Berre and Dunkirk in addition to the closures by Petroplus of Petit-Couronne and Reichstett, leaving France with eight working plants, compared with 24 in 1977.

French fuel demand fell 3 percent in March compared with the same month last year as the economic slowdown affects road transport, UFIP said yesterday.