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Access close to €4bn deal for Basell

Financial Times: Access close to €4bn deal for Basell

By Lina Saigol and James Boxell in London and Najmeh Bozorgmehr,in Tehran

Published: May 5 2005

Access Industries, the private equity group controlled by Leonard Blavatnik, the Russian billionaire, is close to acquiring Basell in a deal that could value the plastics group at up to €4bn ($5.2bn).

Access, which has teamed up with Haldia Petrochemicals of India, was last night finalising the details of the deal, which could be announced as early as today.

Basell is owned jointly by Royal Dutch/Shell, the Anglo-Dutch energy group, and BASF, the German chemicals company.

The Access-led team is understood to have beaten National Petrochemical Company, the Iranian state-owned oil group, to win Basell after fears emerged that a deal with Iran would contravene US sanctions.

In February, Volker Trautz, Basell’s chief executive, said in a confidential memo that “the inclusion of NPC creates a special situation because of US regulations regarding Iran. As such, shareholders’ transaction process activities related to NPC are being carefully considered to ensure there is full compliance with US law”.

Mohammad-Reza Nematzadeh, managing director of NPC, said yesterday that “although Iran’s petrochemical company is the winner of the tender bid to buy Basell in all aspects, we have been told unofficially that it cannot buy Basell due to the politically-motivated pressures by the US”.

US relations with Iran have deteriorated because of the country’s disputed nuclear programme. Several western companies, including General Electric and BP, have said they will not seek business there.

NPC said it had lost out on the deal despite offering to split out Basell’s US assets. The US is believed to have raised concerns about how Iran would use Basell’s technology.

The conclusion of the sale will complete a second major part of Shell’s $12bn-$15bn disposal plan, which will help fund a $45bn capital spending drive over the next three years.

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