Thursday, September 6, 2012

Romanian Oltchim Management Resigns as Government Plans Sale

The management of Romanian Oltchim SA (OLT) including the chief executive officer resigned and employees staged a protest as the government prepares to sell a majority stake in the chemical company this month.

CEO Constantin Roibu, who has led Oltchim for two decades, and 16 other directors, quit, citing a “lack of dialog” with the head of the Economy Ministry’s industrial asset-sale office, Remus Vulpescu. Communication problems blocked financing initiatives, according to a statement sent to the Bucharest Stock Exchange today. About 200 employees demonstrated in front of the company today because of unpaid salaries over the past two months, private television station Realitatea TV said.

Prime Minister Victor Ponta said two “big” investors are interested in acquiring a majority stake in Oltchim, which the company plans to sell through an auction on Sept. 18. as part of a pledge to the International Monetary Fund. He must sell Oltchim shares and a minority stake in natural-gas grid operator Transgaz SA (TGN) this month to get IMF board approval to unlock the next tranche of its precautionary accord.

“There is no other solution for Oltchim, but to have a private investor willing to keep the jobs and secure the needed financing because the government can’t afford to pump money into the company anymore,” Ponta said today in Bucharest after a government meeting.
Funding Conditions

Vulpescu conditioned the funding needed for Oltchim’s working capital and wages on the replacement of the company’s management, Oltchim also said in the statement.

The government also needs to cut the overdue debt of local authorities and increase natural-gas prices, the fund’s Mission Chief Erik de Vrijer said on Aug. 14.

“We were concerned at one point that no company will show interest in Oltchim and now we have two big companies from two totally different geographical areas,” Ponta said.

The Economy Ministry plans to sell its 188 million Oltchim shares at an indicative price of 0.1 lei a share and will also offer the company debt to the state of about 1.8 billion lei ($502 million) after it failed to convert the debt into shares because of a disagreement with minority shareholders, according to an Aug. 27 statement.

Oltchim’s buyer will have the option to purchase OMV Petrom SA (SNP)’s Arpechim refinery after negotiating terms with Romania’s biggest oil company.

Petrom’s majority owner, OMV AG (OMV), and Exxon Mobil Corp. (XOM) plan to invest about $1 billion in the country, Ponta said after meeting with representatives of the two companies yesterday.

Petrom and Exxon are prospecting the Neptun Block, located 170 kilometers (106 miles) off the Romanian Black Sea shore in water about 1,000 meters deep, which holds a potentially “big discovery” of natural gas.

To contact the reporter on this story: Andra Timu in Bucharest at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: James M. Gomez at

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