Sunoco and Carlyle Group in Philly refinery talks

The owner of a Philadelphia oil refinery threatened with closure is in talks with one of the nation’s largest private equity firms, The Carlyle Group.

“We think this is the most promising opportunity that we have to keep the refinery open and save those jobs. But there can be no assurances that those companies can come to an agreement,” cautions Sunoco spokesman, Thomas Golembeski.

The two companies have entered exclusive talk over a partnership Golembeski would only sketch out loosely.

“Sunoco would contribute the refinery to the joint venture, and then Carlyle would contribute cash to the joint venture,” Golembeski. “They would hold the majority interest and oversee the day-to-day operations of the refinery.”

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The Carlyle group declined to comment.

Right now, Sunoco loses money every day it operates the facility, and this move would allow the company to back away from the risk.

The Philadelphia refinery in question represents 25 percent of the East Coast’s fuel-refining capacity.

Sunoco had planned to shut the plant down July 1 if it had not finalized a sale. That prompted fears of even higher summertime gas prices along the East Coast. Golembeski says Sunoco has extended its deadline until the end of July. If the company does shut down the refinery by August, he says it will be left in a condition that it could be restarted easily.

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