September 20, 2017 / 1:01 PM / 2 years ago

Russia's Lukoil puts Italian refinery up for sale - sources

* Lukoil seeking to focus on Russian oil production

* Russian firm also weighing sale of Litasco trading arm

* Other Lukoil overseas assets under review, say sources

By Ron Bousso and Dmitry Zhdannikov

LONDON, Sept 20 (Reuters) - Lukoil is seeking to sell its ISAB oil refinery complex in Italy as part of the Russian firm’s review of its overseas operations, two industry sources said on Wednesday.

Lukoil is already considering selling its Swiss-based energy trading arm Litasco, Lukoil Chief Executive Vagit Alekperov said this month, confirming a Reuters report.

Lukoil Vice President Leonid Fedun would not comment on the sale process but in an interview with Reuters on Wednesday said: “There has been interest towards all our foreign assets.”

Fedun, who is also a major shareholder in Lukoil, said none of the offers so far had been attractive.

Lukoil’s wholly-owned ISAB complex includes two refineries connected by pipeline with capacity to process about 320,000 barrels per day (bpd) of oil, and storage tanks with 3,700 thousand cubic metres capacity and three marine terminals, Lukoil’s website says.

Lukoil, Russia’s second largest oil producer, has offered financial and technical data about the complex to potential buyers in order “to test the market’s appetite,” one of the sources told Reuters.

The sources also said Lukoil could sell more European refining assets in its bid to focus on Russian oil production and reduce the amount of capital it diverts to Western states that have imposed sanctions on Moscow in a dispute over Russia’s annexation of Crimea.

Lukoil owns refineries in Romania, Bulgaria and the Netherlands.

It was not immediately clear how much would be raised by selling the ISAB complex on the eastern coast of Sicily, which employs 1,000 people.

Global refining margins, the profit made from converting crude into products such as gasoline and jet fuel, are expected to remain robust in the coming years, analysts say.

But European refineries have faced pressure in recent years due to plateauing oil demand in Europe, strict environmental regulations and competition from new refineries in Asia and the Middle East.

Still, oil traders such as Lukoil, Vitol , Gunvor and Trafigura have acquired refineries around the world in recent years, seeking to generate higher margins from their global crude and refined oil products trading operations.

Lukoil bought a 49 percent stake in the ISAB refinery from ERG in 2008 and became the sole owner six years later.

The refinery is geared towards producing diesel and gasoil and nearly 90 percent of its production is sold to Litasco. (Additional reporting by Oksana Kobzeva and Olesya Astakhova in Moscow; Editing by Edmund Blair)

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