* Libyan Investment Authority has not withdrawn - unions
* Dubai-based NetOil's offer still favoured by unions
* French court to review offers next week
By Michel Rose
PARIS, Nov 28 Libya is still in the race to save
France's Petit-Couronne refinery from liquidation, trade unions
said late on Tuesday, as the embattled workers press the French
government to help bidders or requisition the plant.
France's Industry Minister said earlier this month he had
received a non-binding letter of interest from Libya's sovereign
wealth fund to buy the refinery of insolvent Swiss refiner
But French media said this week the Libyan Investment
Authority had withdrawn its bid to take over the refinery, the
oldest in France, citing a report from Libya's LANA news agency.
"The Libyans were withdrawing yesterday, but today they're
not withdrawing anymore, they're still there, so much the
better," Yvon Scornet, the trade union representative for the
refinery, told reporters outside the Prime Minister's office.
The chairman of the Libyan Investment Authority, Mohsen
Derregia, told Reuters last week they had started due diligence
to invest in the refinery and would send a team to France to
evaluate the investment opportunity.
"Now they have access to the data room," Scornet told
Reuters on Tuesday after a late evening meeting with government
French daily newspaper Le Monde said earlier this month that
the French government favored a deal with Libya. Unions prefer a
bid by Dubai-based NetOil.
"We have a bid which is well advanced, it's NetOil's. We ask
the government to take its responsibilities. If the government
needs to do something to tip the balance in their favour, it
should do it," Scornet said.
NetOil, a company led by Middle Eastern businessman Roger
Tamraz, submitted an improved offer after a court in Rouen in
northern France rejected its initial bid on financial and
technical grounds earlier this month.
The court has reset to Feb. 5, 2013, the new deadline to
submit bids for the refinery and will review offers next week.
But unions want the sale process to be sped up, as a oil
reprocessing deal with former owner Shell that has kept
the plant alive since January is due to stop mid-December.
"We can't wait until February, unless Shell accepts to
continue producing with us, which they don't want at the
moment," Scornet said.
"If we can't manage that, the government should requisition
the refinery, and keep it under protection for one, two or three
years, when the market is better and industry picks up."