VILNIUS - Executives of Poland's PKN Orlen have expressed a willingness to acquire more assets in the Baltics despite the recent troubles involving the Mazeikiu Nafta refinery.
Analysts have speculated that the fuel retailer, one of the largest in Eastern Europe, is seeking to boost the number of filling stations it owns.
CEO Igor Chalupec was quoted by Puls Biznesu, a Polish daily, as saying that "It's too early to speak about details. It's worthwhile to consider interesting transactions, the more so because there are very few of them left. At the moment, we are focusing on our latest acquisitions."
PKN Orlen recently signed $2.3 billion in separate deals to buy some 84 percent in Mazeikiu Nafta, the Baltics' only oil refinery. However, the deal has come under strain after Russia's decision not to deliver crude to Lithuania due to a rupture in the pipeline.
Previously Chalupec said it would follow up intentions to buy the refinery pending approval by the European Commission, but without Russian oil supplies the company will be forced to supply the Mazaikiai-based refinery with sea-bound deliveries, which are slightly more expensive than pipeline deliveries.
Still, in analysts' opinion, the PKN Orlen group may need to buy additional gas stations in the Czech Republic and Lithuania to strengthen its market positions.
"The Lithuanian oil refinery Mazeikiu Nafta has only 30 gas stations. This network has to be expanded. It will be easier to buy existing stations," Andrzej Paslawski, an analyst with the bank BDM PKO BP, was quoted as saying.
The Lithuanians, however, are more cautious. Mindaugas Palijanskas, the president of the Lithuanian Oil Product Retail Association, said both U.S. Williams International, a former owner of Mazeikiu Nafta, and Russia's Yukos, the current owner, had spoken about expanding the retail network.
"But nothing was done. When you have a plant, you think about its operations and upgrades, while the retail network usually comes last. I don't think PKN Orlen will hurry," he said.
Mazeikiu Nafta currently owns the retail fuel chain Ventus, which has 33 gas stations, a number similar to that of Neste's and Baltic Petroleum's, but much less than the leading retailers, Lukoil (114 stations) and Statoil (65 outlets).