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June 11, 2008

PNOC to keep stake in refiner

Philippine National Oil Co (PNOC) is not rushing to sell its 40 percent stake in oil refiner Petron after Saudi Arabia's state oil firm sold its share, PNOC's chief was quoted as telling Reuters on Tuesday.

Last month, JG Summit Petrochemical Corp, owned by local business family the Gokongweis, said it was offering about 24.5 billion pesos ($575 million) for PNOC's stake in Petron, while Morgan Stanley had also approached PNOC on behalf of Thailand's PTT.

"No, not yet. It's not on the radar screen, it's under the radar screen at the moment," PNOC President and CEO Antonio M. Cailao told Reuters when asked if PNOC was interested in selling its stake.

Last month Saudi Aramco sold its 40 percent Petron stake to London-based investment fund Ashmore Group, and PNOC did not exercise its preemptive right on the $550 million sale.

"It's a private transaction between Aramco and Ashford. So once that's done and we allowed that, it was business as usual."

The government relied mainly on the sale of state assets last year to cover for weak tax collection. Privatisation proceeds, which reached more than 90 billion pesos ($2.1 billion) last year, are expected to fall to 30 billion pesos this year.

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