By Jeslyn Lerh, Julia Payne and Florence Tan
(Reuters) – Montfort has emerged as the top bidder for Uniper Energy’s oil refinery in the UAE that produces low-sulphur fuel oil for the shipping industry, multiple sources familiar with the matter said this week.
The deal could make Montfort one of the top two suppliers of ship fuel, also known as bunker fuel, in the world’s third-largest bunkering hub located in the United Arab Emirates’ city of Fujairah, rivalling energy trader Vitol.
Montfort’s purchase is valued at around $80 million, the sources said, and comes as embattled German utility Uniper is divesting assets to fulfil conditions set out by the European Commission in a 34.5 billion euro ($37.36 billion) plan to recapitalise the company.
Under the deal, Montfort would take over Uniper Energy DMCC’s facility, which consists of two crude processing units specifically focused on provided low-sulphur, environmentally compliant bunker fuel that started commercial production in 2017.
That would give Montfort control of Uniper’s estimated market share of more than 40% in Fujairah, where nearly 8 million tonnes, 139,000 barrels per day, of marine fuel are sold annually, the sources said.
The companies are finalising the deal, some of the sources said, although one source said the deal has been closed. Other companies that were also in the running were Vitol and BB Energy, the sources said.
Uniper and Montfort declined to comment.
The Fujairah plant processes mainly African sweet, or low-sulphur, crude oil, producing about 5 million tonnes per year of very low-sulphur fuel oil (VLSFO), according to Uniper and Refinitiv data.
Montfort has a bunker supplier licence in Fujairah under the entity of Montfort Trading FZE. The company trades liquid and bulk commodities and also invests in assets and infrastructure, according to its website.
Montfort has acquired oil marketing company Kencor Petroleum Ltd in Kenya, bought stakes in Matola Terminal de Armazenamento de Petróleos SA, an oil storage terminal operator in Mozambique, and South African trader New Age Energy, according to its website.
($1 = 0.9236 euros)
(Reporting by Florence Tan and Jeslyn Lerh in Singapore, Dmitry Zhdannikov and Julia Payne in London, Christoph Steitz in Frankfurt and Maha El Dahan in Dubai; Editing by Christian Schmollinger)