WARSAW, Jan 12 (Reuters) - Poland's largest refiner PKN
Orlen said it will sell some Lotos assets to
companies including Saudi Aramco and Hungary's MOL to
fulfil EU antitrust rulings and complete its takeover of the
PKN Orlen's purchase of Lotos is part of a wider plan by
Poland's ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party to increase control
over the economy and create 'national champions' able to compete
with global players. Both companies are controlled by the state.
MOL will buy 417 fuel stations in Poland for $610 million,
expanding its regional footprint in the largest economy in the
European Union's eastern wing.
Saudi Aramco will buy a 30% stake in Lotos Asfalt, one of
the largest manufacturers of bitumen in Europe which also owns
the Lotos oil refinery in Gdansk, in a deal including a fixed
payment of 1.15 billion zlotys and variable elements. It will
also acquire 100% stakes in two other units.
Orlen has also signed a deal with Aramco for oil supplies of
200,000-337,000 barrels per day, adding more purchases to those
agreed earlier. Deliveries under the new contract will start
this year, PKN's chief executive told journalists.
Poland's Unimot and Hungary's Rossi Biofuel will
also purchase some Lotos assets, PKN Orlen added.
Critics say selling Lotos's assets would result in letting
more international competitors into Poland, but Orlen and the
government argue that taking over the smaller rival will improve
company's market position, its bargaining power and investment
"This new company...is a great opportunity for Poland...to
successfully face the challenges we are facing today. The
challenges related to the energy transformation, to global
changes when it comes to new sources of energy and fuels,"
Poland's state assets minister told journalists.
"I am convinced that Orlen will be strengthened by these
Lotos assets, but also strengthened by cooperation with Saudi
Aramco," Jacek Sasin added.
PKN Orlen announced plans to buy Lotos in 2018, but had to
meet conditions set by the European Commission. It agreed to
sell some Lotos assets to address competition concerns.
"The merger of PKN Orlen with Grupa Lotos is a great
economic, political and social event in our part of Europe,"
Polish president and PiS ally Andrzej Duda said on Twitter.
"Thanks to the contracts signed, the energy security of
central Europe increases significantly," Duda added.
The company is expanding beyond its core refining business,
with plans to take over Polish gas giant PGNiG, a deal
which is pending approval by Poland's anti-monopoly watchdog.
It also bought local newspaper publisher Polska Press in a
deal critics say was an attempt by PiS to expand control over
the media. PKN Orlen said it was a simple business transaction.
"We have made several acquisitions, but we still have a lot
of acquisitions ahead of us," PKN Orlen chief executive Daniel
Obajtek told a news conference.
Obajtek said the Lotos takeover might be completed in late
June or early July.
At 1217 GMT, PKN Orlen shares were up 3.8%, Lotos shares had
risen 3.5% and MOL was up 1.2%.
(Reporting by Anna Banacka and Karol Badohal in Gdansk and Anna
Koper in Warsaw, Gergely Szakacs in Budapest; Writing by Alan
Charlish; Editing by Alexandra Hudson, Alexander Smith and