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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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The Pembrokeshire man on the Titanic

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ON the morning of April 15 1912, in the North Atlantic some 450-miles south of Newfoundland, the RMS Titanic slowly slid beneath the sea just two hours and forty minutes after hitting an iceberg.

Stories from that night are famous, from the lookouts misplacing their binoculars to the ship’s band playing even as the sea washed over their feet, the sinking of the Titanic holds a special place in the public consciousness and continues to grab our attention some 109 years after the ‘unsinkable’ ship sank.

Over 1500 people lost their lives in the biggest maritime naval disaster at that point.

Among the dead were American and British millionaires, White Star Line employees and countless anonymous immigrants from across Europe who were all seeking a better life in America.

908 crew were on board the Titanic when it left Southampton on its fateful maiden voyage, one of the crew was a man called Charles Essex Edwards, 38, who sometimes gave himself the first name of ‘Clement’.

Charles was born in 1862 to John and Harriet Edwards of St. Martin’s Place, Haverfordwest.

He worked as a carpenter as a 19-year-old man and would end up moving out of Pembrokeshire and going to sea.  By the time he married a lady called Lavinia Ann Poulter, from Llanstadwell, in May 1892 he was living in Newport.

Lavinia, a Pembrokeshire woman herself, was the daughter of Thomas and Elizabeth Poulter who lived on Lawrenny Terrace in Neyland.

By 1895, Lavinia had returned to Pembrokeshire following the death of her mother. Charles and Lavinia’s marriage suffered but Charles would continue visiting Lavinia and stayed at his father-in-law’s house when he was on shore leave.

Although still married in the eyes of the law, Charles and Lavinia were basically separated by 1901.

Charles signed on to work on the brand new RMS Titanic after it had completed its sea trials in Belfast Lough, he gave his address as 7 Brunswick Square, Southampton. He worked on the Titanic as an assistant pantry-man steward who earned a monthly wage of £3 15s on his previous ship the SS Zeeland.

SS Zeeland: The ship Charles worked on before the Titanic

When RMS Titanic left Southampton a massive crowd had gathered to see the newest addition to the White Star Line fleet depart. Charles Edwards was there. He was there when the ship picked up more passengers at Cherbourg and Cobh.

He would’ve been working during the day, his job entailed keeping the ship’s pantries stocked with food and wine, a vital job on a ship with such a high-class passenger list as the Titanic.

He was, more than likely, sleeping when Frederick Fleet spotted an iceberg in the ship’s path at 11:40pm on Sunday, April 14. He would’ve been woken by the noise of metal on ice and the ship shuddering as it was torn open on the starboard side.

As the ‘unsinkable’ ship took on water Charles, as a White Star Line employee, would’ve been given the unenviable task of waking up passengers, informing them of what happened and getting them to put on their lifejackets.

Once the scale of the situation on the Titanic became apparent, the command structure effectively disintegrated.

Captain Edward Smith would’ve cut a forlorn figure as he wandered around near the wheelhouse and his last words to his crew, according to reports at the time were:

“Well boys, you’ve done your duty and done it well. I ask no more of you. I release you.

“You know the rule of the sea. It’s every man for himself now, and God bless you.”

This would’ve been around 2:10am, at that point Charles would’ve faced a literal up-hill battle with male members of the crew only having a 24% chance of survival and many people gathering ‘like bees’ on the stern of the stricken liner which, experts say, raised to a 12 degree angle.

The Pantryman-stewards from the Titanic’s sister ship, the Olympic

Many male crew members elected to stay at their posts as, according to Victorian culture it was better for men to die than to live and be perceived a coward, so the lights of the ship remained on until about 2:18am, just two minutes before Titanic broke apart and began its journey to its final resting place some 12,000ft below on the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean.

But now you know there was a man named Charles Edwards who was born in Haverfordwest and who died when the Titanic sank in the freezing waters of the North Atlantic. His body, if it was recovered, was never identified and we don’t even have a picture of him.

When news of the disaster broke, The Pembroke County Guardian described the tragedy as ‘one of the most appalling calamities in the long history of shipwreck’.

Four men from Maenclochog, it was later revealed, had a lucky escape as their plans to emigrate that April on the Titanic were thwarted by one of their number being unable to travel, so the group decided to wait for their friend. That decision saved their lives.

Pembrokeshire responded to the sinking by raising money for the Titanic Relief Fund, Pembroke Dock raised £12 2s 0d through a collection at the Royal Dockyard and, in Haverfordwest, Sidney White, who would later go on to own The Palace Cinema, hosted benefit performances to packed houses which raised £5 15s.

Lavinia, after a legal battle with Charles’ brother William, was given £192 in compensation for Charles’ death and went on to look after her father at Railway Terrace, Neyland until he passed away.

Lavinia went on to move to Middlesex where she lived until 1934. She left her estate to her chauffeur.

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Marloes pensioner in child abuse images case

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A PENSIONER has been bailed to attend Swansea Crown Court by magistrates sitting in Haverfordwest Law Courts this week.

Derek Lister, 72, of Marloes is accused of making indecent photographs of children.

He appeared before the bench, on Tuesday (Apr 13).

Lister was represented by Redkite Solicitors.

The court heard that between June 2009 and November 2019 in Marloes, Pembrokeshire, Lister allegedly created 3 indecent category A images of a child, 14 indecent category B images of a child and 152 indecent category C images of a child.

He will now appear at Swansea Crown Court on May 11 at 10am for the next hearing after the local court declined jurisdiction.

Lister has pleaded not guilty to all the charges.

Derek Lister: Accused of making child abuse images
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Primary school teacher described as ‘touchy-feely’ on day two of trial

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A HAVERFORDWEST primary school teacher, accused of sexually assaulting his pupils was “very touchy-feely”, Swansea Crown Court heard on the second day of his trial.

James Oulton, 34, of Haverfordwest would put his hands around students’ waists and touch their bottoms, an ex-female pupil said in a video interview played to Swansea Crown Court.

The defendant denies 30 charges of sexual assault at a primary school in Haverfordwest. The alleged offences took place between 2012 and 2018.

On the opening day of the trial, court heard that Oulton said the case was a “witch-hunt” and that he always behaved appropriately with children.

On Tuesday, the jury watched the video interview with one of Oulton’s former pupils, who said he was a “friendly person, very chatty and sociable and quite outgoing and wanted to know everything that was going on.”

She added: “Mr Oulton often wanted to know a lot of details on what we had done over the weekend, where we had been, and also who they had been with.”

“At the time I just thought he was trying to be really friendly but now when I look back at it now, it does seem odd.”

The witness also described the defendant as a “very touchy-feely teacher”.

She added: “If he was marking your work or if you approached him to ask him a question, he would put his hands around your waist or around your bum”.

“If he was standing by his desk, he would, like, motion to his knee, so he wouldn’t ask you directly to sit on his lap but he would tap his knee.”

Swansea Crown Court heard that the witness eventually came forward and told her parents parents after she heard them speaking about Mr Oulton being suspended from his job.

“Did you feel under pressure to say something had happened to you?” asked Mr Clee.

The witness answered “No”

Oulton, of Richmond Crescent, Haverfordwest, previously told the court he had behaved appropriately.

He also believed letters were sent by Pembrokeshire County Council to parents which encouraged “deliberately false evidence” and collusion between pupils.

The trial continues.

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