Browne to take BP back to his roots

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BP is considering a bid for the Romanian state oil company through its new $7.7bn (£4.7bn) joint-venture with the Russian group Tyumen Oil.</p>The Romanian government is selling 33 per cent of Petrom, which the buyer must increase to 51 per cent through taking up newly issued shares. Yesterday was the closing date for initial expressions of interest and the Economy Ministry in Romania said it had received 15 letters, one from a consortium and 14 from oil companies. TNK-BP, which was created this year when Mikhail Fridman, the Russian billionaire, sold a major stake in his Tyumen Oil to BP, has sent a letter to the Romanian government asking for access to information on Petrom. Its current market value is estimated at about $1.6bn and the successful bidder may have to pay up to $1bn for the company.</p>Bucharest plans to sell Petrom by the end of March. It is Romania's biggest company, employing more than 60,000 people and taking $2.2bn in sales. It has several closed refineries that could be restarted to bump up production to 14 million tons of oil a year. It has an estimated 128 million tons of oil reserves, the largest in the region, and controls about 28 per cent of Romania's fuel market.</p>This would be BP's first move into Eastern European refineries after the Russian deal, although its chief executive, Lord Browne of Madingley, has family links with Romania through his mother. TNK-BP will face competition from Poland's Orlen, Hungary's Mol and Russia's Lukoil. Romania, with its 23 million-strong population, is seen as an up-and-coming country in the region.</p>But TNK-BP, however, may not proceed with its interest in Petrom beyond these early stages, as it is concentrating on developing its Russian sites. </p>