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NEW YORK CITY-Zug, Switzerland-based Petroplus Holdings AG has entered into a partnership with locally based Blackstone Group and First Reserve to pursue acquisitions of crude oil refineries in the US. Each partner has committed $667 million in equity to this venture.

PBF will assemble a small group of highly experienced professionals in the US to examine potential opportunities. Thomas O’Malley, chairman of Petroplus, will act as the CEO of the partnership.

O’Malley says in a prepared statement that “there are interesting opportunities in the US, and Petroplus’s Board of Directors is extremely pleased that we were able to assemble partners with two outstanding organizations, both of whom are familiar with the refining and energy business and bring to the partnership extraordinary talents and financial support. This investment vehicle gives Petroplus accretive expansion opportunities, without the need to significantly lever up the balance sheet or issue equity to support a US growth vehicle.” O’Malley continues that “this initiative opens up a new geographic area of growth for Petroplus and should allow for Petroplus to add to earnings per share and free cash flows without distraction from its current operations.”

Petroplus is reportedly interested in acquiring San Antonio-based Valero Energy Corp’s 275,000-barrel-per-day refinery on the island of Aruba, which supplies intermediate feedstock to refineries in Texas and Louisiana, as well as Valero’s Memphis and Paulsboro, NJ refineries. According to reports, the Aruba plant was expected to sell for around $4.1 billion. “We don’t comment on rumors,” says Bill Day, a spokesman for Valero.

Petroplus’s president Robert Lavinia, who will become CEO beginning March 1, 2008, says that “while we continue to be focused on our business in Europe, we are excited about the possibility of providing our shareholders with another avenue of growth. O’Malley has great experience in this area and Petroplus, we believe, will enjoy success from this venture.”

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