By SEAN CARNEY
PRAGUE -- A unit of Royal Dutch Shell is in talks with shareholders and the Czech government over the potential sale of its 16% stake in the largest refinery in the Czech Republic, a local news website reported Tuesday, citing the Czech industry minister.
"We received an offer from Shell and it's led to negotiations," Industry Minister Martin Kuba said, according to news website Ceska Pozice.
Mr. Kuba, his press office and representatives from Shell weren't immediately available to comment on the report.
A state acquisition of Shell's stake in Ceska Rafinerska would be logical only "if it fell into the structure of a future [state-run] petro holding company, on which we are now finishing conceptual work," Mr. Kuba was quoted as saying.
The minister is also reported to have said that Shell offered its stake to the two other shareholders in the refinery, which have an option to purchase the stake before it's offered to third parties.
Italy's Eni has a 32.4% stake, having doubled its holdings in the refiner in 2007, while Unipetrol, the Czech unit of Polish PKN Orlen, holds a 51% share in the refiner.
PKN and Unipetrol officials said they won't comment, but in the past they have repeatedly said they would like to increase their stake in the refiner.
ENI representatives declined to comment.
Dow Jones Newswires