Hopes raised that takeover will save Milford Haven refinery jobs

Guardian (UK) |

Hundreds of workers at the Milford Haven oil refinery in south-west Wales are awaiting confirmation that their jobs have been saved after weekend reports that a deal to sell the plant was close. The plant's current owner, US-listed Murphy Oil, has agreed to sell the troubled site to the oil entrepreneur Gary Klesch, the local Conservative MP, Stephen Crabb, said yesterday. The refinery has been up for sale for more than three years but Murphy Oil was quick to temper hopes of a breakthrough, stressing that a deal had yet to be signed. Speaking to the Western Telegraph, Crabb was nonetheless optimistic. "I am delighted with the breakthrough in negotiations over the sale of the Murco oil refinery in Milford Haven," he said. "The agreement in principle reached between Murphy and the buyer is a hugely positive step forward." However, he added: "There remain challenges ahead, and a due diligence process to be completed, but I am just so pleased that we have reached this point. I am very optimistic that the sale can be completed." A spokesman for Murphy, which first acquired a stake in the Milford Haven plant in the late 1970s and became its outright owner in 2007, told Reuters: "Murphy feel that solid progress has been made in negotiations, but caution that substantial work remains to done. If the past has taught us anything, it is that these sales are especially challenging and we are not assured of success." The news agency cited a source as saying any deal was likely to value the Milford Haven plant at close to zero. The site - operated by Murphy's British subsidiary, Murco - is not buying crude oil but recycling oil products to keep it running. Along with other European refineries, the Milford Haven plant has struggled as high crude prices and lacklustre demand for fuel have squeezed margins. The refinery employs 400 direct employees and more than 200 contractors, according to the Unite union. The Klesch Group, a global commodities business with offices in Geneva, Moscow and London, could not be reached to comment on the reports.

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