* Refinery closed in 2015, casualty of oil price crash
* Morocco wants at least $2 billion for plant - sources
* Glencore had $200 mln prepayment deal with operator
* Carlyle subsidiary lent oil worth over $400 mln to Samir
* Sale process lacks transparency - sources
By Aziz El Yaakoubi, Julia Payne and Libby George
DUBAI/LONDON, May 15 Swiss trading giant
Glencore and U.S. private equity investor Carlyle Group have
teamed up in an attempt to buy Morocco's only oil refinery,
hoping to recoup about $600 million in loans they issued to the
plant before it went bankrupt, industry sources said.
Two sources close to the process said the Moroccan
government wanted at least $2 billion for the plant at
Mohammedia, on the Atlantic coast near Casablanca. However, no
decision on any sale is imminent, due partly to its complex
The 200,0000 barrel per day refinery fell foul of the global
oil price crash. It stopped operating in August 2015 after the
government froze the bank accounts of its loss-making operator,
Samir, seeking 13 billion dirham ($1.35 billion) in unpaid
If the deal goes through, it would become Glencore's
first oil refinery and allow the plant to restart
production, a crucial condition for repaying debts to a wide
group of foreign creditors.
A Moroccan court ruled last year that Samir should
be liquidated despite attempts to restart production by the
company, which was controlled by the Corral Petroleum Holdings
group of Saudi billionaire Mohammed al-Amoudi.
On top of the unpaid taxes, several large oil companies and
trading houses, including Glencore, are owed around $1 billion
by Samir. This debt was extended mainly in the form of crude oil
which they lent to the refiner in return for repayment in cash
or refined products later.
However, Samir became the biggest casualty of the 2014-2015
oil price crash in the Mediterranean region, becoming unable to
repay the debts from sales of petroleum products.
Glencore, the world's second largest oil trader after Vitol,
has repeatedly insisted the plant needs to restart production so
creditors can gradually recoup the money.
It has now joined Carlyle, which already co-owns
refineries in Switzerland and Germany with Vitol, in offering to
buy the plant, four industry sources familiar with talks said.
The sources declined to be named as talks are confidential.
Glencore and Carlyle declined to comment.
Mohammed El-Krimi, appointed by a Moroccan court to oversee
the plant's liquidation, said information about bidders and the
process was confidential. "I cannot confirm or deny," he told
Glencore has a $200 million prepayment deal with Samir
funded by loans from banks Natixis and APICORP. A source
familiar with the situation said negotiations to restructure the
debt were on hold until there was clarity on the fate of the
Trading houses have been specialising for decades in lending
to clients in financial difficulty and earning extra money by
getting preferential access to their oil or product flows.
Apart from Glencore, Samir's creditors include Vitol, BB
Energy, Socar Trading and the trading arm of oil major BP
Among Samir's biggest lenders is Carlyle Commodity
Management, a subsidiary formerly called Vermillion, which has
been previously unseen in active commodities lending in Europe,
the Middle East and Africa. Vermillion loaned oil worth over
$400 million to Samir.
The price sought by the government remains up in the air.
"Estimates are ranging wildly between $2 billion to $3.5 billion
with or without debts and overdue taxes," one of the sources
close to the process said, adding that there was no deadline for
completing a sale and that a decision was not close.
At stake for Morocco are rebuilding its strategic fuel
stocks, which had been stored at the plant, and the livelihood
of the town of Mohammedia. According to Samir's website, the
refinery and accompanying assets provided employment for 4,200
However, the sale process has been described by several
participants as lacking transparency on the total debts
involved. Any buyer will also have to upgrade the plant after a
long shutdown, which could cost hundreds of millions of dollars
"No adviser was approved to interact with potential
investors... That is not the way to sell a desperate refiner to
a foreign investor," a source with one of the creditors, who is
not bidding for Samir, said.
"If you want to get documents about court proceedings, the
only option is to go and read them in court," the source said,
adding that photocopies were not allowed. "The process can be
best described as the blind leading the blind."
(Additional reporting by Samia Errazzouki in Rabat, Dmitry
Zhdannikov and Ron Bousso in London, Writing by Julia Payne,
Editing by Dmitry Zhdannikov and David Stamp)