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REFINERY SALE A STEP CLOSER

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  • gb capitalLondon based investment firm tipped to purchase Murco plant
  • Greybull Capital tipped to buy the struggling refinery
  • Plant and retail petrol stations would continue operating

MURPHY OIL is in advanced talks to sell its Milford Haven refinery to a low-profile private equity fund that will continue operating the struggling plant, sources familiar with the situation said on Tuesday.

The American oil giant has been trying to sell the 135,000 barrels-per-day plant and its Murco petrol stations for around four years. But buyers who were willing to keep it running have proved elusive as European refineries fight for survival due to failing demand.

A deal is now moving closer with London-based Greybull Capital after it had agreed to fund a major planned maintenance at the plant within the next 18 months, sources said.

“There is a form of agreement pending finance,” said a source close to the negotiations.The maintenance turnaround at Milford Haven was expected to cost less than $75 million, the source said. The full cost of the deal was unclear.

The source said that a commitment to fund the turnaround was vital to prevent any buyer from running the plant for a short time before closing it down to sell assets, or demand a government bailout. Greybull has in the past focused on financing deals to buy struggling British high street chains such as the ultimately doomed electrical goods outlet Comet. It declined to comment on the Milford Haven discussions.Greybull would probably need to partner with either a commodity trading house or a bank with trading capabilities in order to secure the funding for the deal to keep the 450 employees in place.

“They are trying to raise the money in order to keep the work force in place,” an industry source said.

A spokeswoman for Murco, the Murphy Oil subsidiary that operates the refinery, confirmed talks for the sale of the refinery were coming closer to a conclusion.

“Discussions with regard to the sale of the Murco UK business by its U.S. parent, Murphy Oil Corporation, are ongoing and are at an advanced stage,” Emma Murphy said in an email.

Retail Outlets

Murco’s 400 petrol stations across the country would also be part of the deal.

“The buyers will purchase the Murco name and the supply system which will continue to supply the Murco petrol stations,” the industry source said.

Murco also operates three storage and distribution terminals in Britain which are supplied by rail from the refinery and handle around 2 million tonnes of oil product a year, according to the company’s website.

The Welsh plant, like other British and European refineries, has struggled in recent years due to weak demand in the region and in its U.S East Coast export market, as well as growing competition from U.S., Russian and Asian plants – factors which have hammered margins.

India’s Essar Energy said last month it will shutter one third of its production capacity at Britain’s second-largest oil refinery Stanlow.Last year the Grangemouth refinery in Scotland was brought to the brink of closure following a bitter industrial dispute, after owner Ineos said it needed to slash costs to keep it viable.

This followed the closure of the Coryton plant owned by bankrupt Petroplus which closed in 2012. Greybull is led by the brothers Nathaniel and Marc Meyohas, who operate from a small office in London’s Knightsbridge. The pair try to keep a low profile but shot to fame two years ago when they were involved in the Comet scandal.

Greybull was among the backers that had bankrolled a buyout of the electricals retailer by the former banker Henry Jackson, who sparked outrage when he pulled the plug on Comet just months later, triggering thousands of job losses.

The investment company has declined to comment on their plans over the Murco site. Councillor David Pugh, Cabinet Member with Responsibility for Economy, Tourism, Communities and the Voluntary Sector, said: “We have been aware for some time that Murco is in advanced discussions with a potential purchaser. We are pleased to hear that these negotiations are now nearing completion and that the future of the Refinery is looking more secure.

He added: “Our officers, together with the Welsh Government’s Energy and Environmental team, are in regular contact with Murco and the company is aware of our support for them and whoever acquires the business.”

Who is behind Greybull Capital?

behind greybull

THE OFFICES of Greybull Capital are discreetly placed in the heart of London’s upmarket Knightsbridge.

These are the offices of the company reported to be behind the proposed purchase of the Murco’s operations in the UK, including petrol stations and crucially for Pembrokeshire the refinery at Milford Haven.

Behind tinted windows, brothers Marc and Nathaniel Meyohas have been behind the financing of takeovers of well-known troubled brands and High Street names, such as Game and most famously Comet. Last year the company was involved in the rescue and restructuring of Metaltrax, a West Midlands-based manufacturer of bakeware and kitchen accessories, saving a reported 387 jobs.

Greybull was closely involved in the investor group behind OpCapita’s purchase of troubled electrical retailer Comet. The withdrawal of support by a key American investor before Christmas 2012 caused Comet to collapse with the loss of 7,000 jobs at the retailer’s stores nationwide.

Before founding Greybull Capital, Marc Meyohas was the founder and CEO of Cityscape a leading provider of digital urban networks in the UK. Nathaniel Meyohas is no stranger to the petrochemical industry, having in the past been involved in arranging a shareholder loan of $40m to multinational company Manoir Industries.

Most recently Greybull Capital have acquired the British assets of plastic bottle maker Constar for a reported $8m.

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Pembrokeshire County Council housing services update

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FOLLOWING the most recent Government guidance, Pembrokeshire County Council’s housing department has had to cut back on all face-to-face meetings and home visits.
Staff are still working to support tenants, those who are homeless and those who are on the Choice Homes waiting list but they have had to make changes to some of those services.
Choice Homes Allocation Scheme

• allocations under the Choice Homes Scheme have now been suspended for the time being. Instead the focus will be on working with the Housing Associations and businesses to identify, match and prepare properties for those in an emergency situation. This includes the suspension of Mutual Exchanges and Transfers.
• customers can still complete housing applications but there may be a delay in these being responded to as the Council prioritises other areas. If customers wish to discuss their housing application they should call: 01437764551 or email: haalloc@pembrokeshire.gov.uk
• if customers have any information to add to their housing application, they are asked to email a picture or a scanned copy of it to: haalloc@pembrokeshire.gov.uk and where possible avoid sending anything in the post.

Homelessness

Staff are available to give advice and assistance over the telephone to those who may be at risk of becoming homeless in the near future.
Demand remains high for this service and given the current circumstances and any landlords who are interested in working with the Housing Department to supply accommodation for those in an emergency situation are asked to get in touch.
Accommodation will need to be fully self-contained and furnished to include cooking and washing facilities in order for people to self-isolate where necessary. To enquire, please email: haalloc@pembrokeshire.gov.uk

Emergency Legislation has been introduced which bans both social and private landlords from starting possession proceedings to evict tenants for at least the next three months.
Support has also been introduced to home owners and landlords in the form of a three-month mortgage payment holiday if they are struggling to meet payments as a result of COVID-19 outbreak.
If you are homeless and need advice, contact the duty team by emailing: housingadvice@pembrokeshire.gov.uk or phoning: 01437 764551 and asking for the housing advice team.

Current Tenants

The housing department will continue to provide advice and support to tenants by telephone for emergency tenancy issues only.
It is in the process of identifying tenants who may be vulnerable and in need of additional support during this time. If you are a tenant who may need additional support, please let us know so that we can link you in with the essential services that you need.
You can also access the Community Hub on: https://www.pembrokeshire.gov.uk/coronavirus-covid-19-communityinformation/i-need-some-help or call: 01437 776301
Housing staff is also asking tenants to let them know if they are in self-isolation or displaying any symptoms so that we can ensure staff safety in the event of an emergency.
Please email: tenman@pembrokeshire.gov.uk or call 01437 764551 and ask to speak to the Tenancy Management Team.

Sheltered Housing Schemes

The department has taken several measures to support and comply with the Government guidance for self-isolation and social distancing within our Sheltered Housing schemes.
• communal lounges have been closed
• tenants have been advised that they must socially isolate themselves.
• wardens are available via phone or email to support tenants and ensure they have access to food, medication and essential services
• tenants are advised to only allow essential visitors to their property (or example to deliver food, medication etc)
• always keep two metres separation from people
The Council is concerned that some residents and visitors are not adhering to the strict government guidance and would plead to keep themselves and others safe by maintaining isolation during this period.

Anyone who is a Sheltered Housing tenant, or concerned about a Sheltered Housing tenant who may need help and assistance during this time, can contact the warden for the scheme or call: 01437 764551 and ask to speak to the Housing Customer Liaison team.
Building Maintenance Service
Our Maintenance teams are working hard to make sure we can respond to emergency repairs only, which should be reported as normal. All other repairs that involve social contact have been suspended.
All customers reporting repairs are asked to inform the department if they are self-isolating or showing symptoms of the virus so that staff and customers alike can be protected
We will keep you updated in the coming weeks as we react to the evolving situation.
Paying Rent
It is important that tenants continue paying their rent where possible, either via the automated phone line on 01437 775164 or by paying online through: https://myaccount.pembrokeshire.gov.uk
If customers need advice or assistance regarding paying their rent, they can email: revenue.services@pembrokeshire.gov.uk
For tenants who are worried about paying their rent or who are in financial difficulty, they may be entitled to help to pay their housing costs through Universal Credit or Housing Benefit depending on their circumstances. To find out about the financial support available, go to: www.GOV.UK or for Housing Benefit and Council Tax enquiries, email: revenue.services@pembrokeshire.gov.uk
If customers require additional support with this, Citizens Advice are continuing to support customers online and via telephone. Local Advice line number is: 01437 806070.
Opening times are: Tuesday and Thursday: 10 am to 5 pm and Wednesday: 10 am to 5.30 pm. Further information is available at: www.pembscab.org

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Police turn away caravans and campervans heading for Pembrokeshire

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PEMBROKESHIRE is currently closed to visitors’ is the message from Dyfed-Powys Police as officers work to prevent the spread of Coronavirus within the county.

Despite the Prime Minister placing the UK under lockdown on Tuesday (March 24), some people continue to flout the rules and are still treating the area as a holiday destination.

Sergeant Hamish Nichols, of Dyfed-Powys Police, said patrols conducted over the last two days had resulted in more than 200 reminders to the public about what currently counts as ‘essential travel’.

“Yesterday we turned away numerous caravans and camper vans whose owners were travelling to Pembrokeshire to self-isolate,” said Sgt Nichols.

“We have also spoken to two campsite owners who have been open for business, and have issued stern advice to them and to all holidaymakers.

“While the majority of local people have taken the government guidelines seriously too many people seem to think the rules do not apply to them.

“The message is clear – this is a lockdown, not a holiday, and anyone who ignores the current restrictions not only puts people’s lives in danger but also risks further action being taken against them.”

Patrols of beaches, coastal areas, and other public spaces will continue this weekend, with officers also conducting increased stop checks on roads across the force area.

Where members of the public refuse to listen to advice, officers will be able to issue penalty notices of £30, which if not paid within 14 days double to £60.

Individuals who do not pay a fixed penalty notice could be taken to court, with magistrates able to impose further fines.

If an individual continues to refuse to comply, they will be acting unlawfully, and the police may arrest them.

“Enforcement is a last resort, and officers will always apply their common sense and discretion to every situation,” said Sgt Nichols.

“But the powers are now available and we will use them if we have to.”

Chief Inspector Louise Harries added: “Our staff are working tirelessly in already difficult times and I ask that people adhere to the simple rules set.

“This will enable us to put our resources towards supporting all agencies in response to this crisis and continuing to protect our communities and victims.”

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Bluestone National Park Resort is to become a COVID-19 recovery centre

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Bluestone National Park Resort is to become a Recovery Centre for patients in Pembrokeshire, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

In the wake of the ongoing public health emergency, part of Bluestone’s extensive facilities, as well as open spaces, will be utilised to help treat those in need and those recovering from the virus. Bluestone is joining a local, regional, and national effort to do everything possible to prepare for the unfolding outbreak – and ultimately save as many lives as possible.

Bluestone provides a significant addition to the resources and facilities of Hywel Dda University Health Board, which is responsible for the health and wellbeing of the residents of Carmarthenshire, Ceredigion and Pembrokeshire.

Members of the Bluestone Team will continue to provide security and management of some of the facilities on the site, while the Health Board will manage the addition of medical resources, and Pembrokeshire County Council will lead work on the site. The details of additional personnel required to support the effort, under the full guidance of the Health Board, are currently being worked up, and the facility will available to those in need as soon as possible.

Dr Phil Kloer, Medical Director and Deputy Chief Executive at Hywel Dda, said: “We have followed the situation in Italy closely to learn where possible and to help our planning. Our European colleagues have provided feedback that patient flow and throughput is a critical factor in response to COVID-19 pressures. Delivering these additional beds for patients will therefore be essential to help us manage patient flow over the coming weeks. We are extremely grateful for all of the support that we are receiving from Bluestone and Pembrokeshire County Council to help make this happen and am confident this facility will offer a good environment in which our patients can recover.”

Speaking following the announcement, William McNamara, CEO of Bluestone said: “We are living and operating in previously unimaginable circumstances. It is moments like these that it’s vital we come together to support each other – as family, as friends and as a community.

“It is right that Bluestone is utilised in this time of great national need. We all want – and need – to do whatever we can to make a difference and contribute to tackling the unfolding coronavirus emergency.

“Our thoughts and deepest sympathies are with those who are personally affected by this unfolding situation.”

Cllr David Simpson, Leader of Pembrokeshire County Council, added: ”We are very grateful to William and the Bluestone Team for coming forward and making the Bluestone site available. The facilities are going to provide significant additional resources to the local area as we battle the ongoing coronavirus outbreak.

“I know that this is an uncertain and worrying time for residents across Pembrokeshire and Hywel Dda. The community is doing a truly heartening job of pulling together – and we will get through this together.”

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