Deal boosts German jobs

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BERLIN - A French-German consortium led by Elf Aquitaine yesterday signed a contract to buy Minol, the former East Germany's petrol station chain, the Leuna oil refinery, and a synthetic oil plant in Zeitz, writes Adrian Bridge.

The contract, agreed with the Treuhand privatisation agency, is the biggest sale of a formerly state-owned East German enterprise so far.

Although the price was not disclosed, the consortium, including the German companies Thyssen Handelsunion and SB Kauf, pledged to invest DM6bn ( pounds 2.2bn) in the next four years, mostly on a new refinery in Leuna.

Loik Le Floch-Prigent, president of Elf, said the sale would create at least 10,000 jobs in eastern Germany. He added that the consortium had not decided whether to keep the trade name Minol, which operates 900 stations in the region.

Jurgen Mollemann, Germany's economics minister, said he hoped it would act as a spur to other foreign investors in eastern Germany. By the end of June, 8,175 of the 12,500 companies in the Treuhand's charge had been privatised, generating proceeds of DM30.7bn, investment pledges of DM144bn and 1.2 million job guarantees.