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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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Community

Pembrokeshire’s ‘Pure West Radio’ celebrates sixth birthday

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THERE ain’t no birthday like a Pure West birthday! 

Pure West Radio – Pembrokeshire’s multi-award-winning radio station is celebrating its sixth birthday this month – and is ready to move up a gear when it starts broadcasting on DAB later this summer. 

Pure West, which now has a staff of 12, and a team of over 90 volunteers bringing news, sport, entertainment and information to the airwaves of Pembrokeshire, celebrated its sixth anniversary on April 4 – and decided to share its celebrations with its loyal listeners – giving no fewer than 1,100 of them free tickets to some top local events. 

For the Pure West Team the birthday was marked with a staff party at Seven Spice in Haverfordwest – but for listeners the treats were more varied. 

Pure West Radio joined forces with Ocky White Travel – itself celebrating a 60th anniversary – to give away a cruise holiday to one lucky winner. On April 3 nurse Ffion Thomas, from Johnston, was announced as the winner of the seven-day P&O cruise to the Norwegian Fjords. She is taking her mum along with her as a 60th birthday treat when the Iona sets sail from Southampton on May 18. 

And the giveaways didn’t stop there… Mark Edwards kindly shared 100 free tickets for a celebratory Silent Disco at Eddie Rocks, in Haverfordwest, that were snapped up within an hour – so a hundred more were released; Pure West Radio also teamed up with Hangar 5, also in Haverfordwest, and offered two one-hour free bounces for listeners, but again demand far outweighed expectations, so another hour’s bounce was provided. 

In addition, Pure West Radio joined forces with The Palace Cinema, in Haverfordwest, for a free showing of Shrek – the Movie – but, yet again, a second showing had to be booked to accommodate all those who wanted tickets. 

And sports fans haven’t been left out of the party – Haverfordwest County AFC, media partners of Pure West, have supplied 100 free tickets for the Bluebrids final home game of the season against Colwyn Bay to the broadcaster’s listeners. 

“Our birthday celebrations were immense,” said Toby Ellis, Station Manager, “We gave away 1,100 free tickets to local events to make sure our dedicated listeners and followers were able to join in the party… putting a smile on the faces of more than a thousand Pembrokeshire people. 

“And while the birthday celebrations are winding down – Pure West Radio – the only radio station based in Pembrokeshire – is gearing up for the next phase in our story. 

“The licence for DAB broadcasting is in place – and we hope to go live within the next few months. 

“We’ve expanded our staff and are currently looking for a full-time show producer – so anyone interested should email [email protected] to find out more, and we have some new sponsors – Ocky White Travel is now the official sponsor of Pure West’s daytime show and Folly Farm sponsors the breakfast show. 

“And we’ve teamed up with yet more Pembrokeshire businesses who are taking advantage of our huge reach to spread their message across the county. 

“There really is something for everyone on Pure West Radio – tune in via app, smart speaker and check out our website for the latest going on in Pembrokeshire, he added.” 

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Crime

Suspended sentence for distribution and possession of child abuse images

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IN a controversial decision at Swansea Crown Court, 20-year-old Euwyn Draper of Goat Street, Haverfordwest, has been spared prison time despite admitting to possessing and distributing indecent images of children.

The court heard that Draper pleaded guilty to charges involving 74 Category A images — the most severe — along with 102 Category B and 385 Category C images. These were amassed and shared over a period last year, with specific distributions occurring on November 4, 2022.

Prosecutor Sian Cutter detailed that the investigation began with a raid at Draper’s residence on December 21, 2022. Although Draper was not present, and initial searches of his devices at his home returned no results, subsequent actions led to his arrest at his workplace. Upon confronting law enforcement, Draper immediately acknowledged his awareness of the reasons for their presence, lamenting, “I know why you’re here. I don’t do it anymore. I’m sorry.”

Further examination of his phone revealed not only the indecent images but also concerning internet searches and conversations indicating a focus on children. Notably, Draper had sent one image of each category to a contact named “Ralph” via WhatsApp.

Despite these admissions, Draper, who has no prior convictions, denied a sexual interest in children during his interview.

Representing Draper, defence lawyer Dan Griffiths stressed the defendant’s recognition of the gravity of his offences and highlighted his client’s age and immaturity at the time of the offences. The court also considered the prolonged period since the arrest to the trial, a span of 16 months.

Judge Geraint Walters addressed the court, underscoring the public’s disdain for such crimes and the harsh reality behind the images. “These are real children, they are not actors,” Judge Walters emphasized, condemning the market that drives such exploitative material.

Ultimately, Draper received a suspended sentence of 12 months for distribution and six months, concurrent, for making the images. Over the next two years, he must complete the Horizon programme and 30 days of rehabilitation activities. Additionally, Draper will be registered as a sex offender and is subject to a sexual harm prevention order for ten years.

Judge Walters concluded with a stern admonition for Draper to commit to rehabilitation and to move past this “dark phase” in his life, marking a pivotal moment for the young defendant and the community’s ongoing battle against such digital crimes.

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Community

The Harbourmaster: Special rail excursion draws crowds to Milford Haven

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MILFORD HAVEN witnessed an extraordinary event yesterday as a special charter train, operated by UK Railtours, made a unique visit to the town, drawing in 500 railway enthusiasts. Departing from London Paddington, the 13-carriage train, which included both first class and standard accommodations, travelled off the usual passenger routes to provide a scenic journey along the south Wales coast.

Starting the day with pick-ups from various locations including Slough, Reading, Swindon, and Bristol Parkway, the train ventured through the Severn Tunnel into Wales, showcasing a series of rarely used freight tracks. Notably, the locomotive switched at Newport to a pair of GBRf Class 66 freight engines, enhancing the experience for those on board by traversing tracks seldom seen by passenger services.

The journey took passengers through Cardiff, Bridgend, and Port Talbot Parkway, deviating at Court Sart Junction to follow the diversionary Swansea District line. The train paused at various locations including Llanelli and Haverfordwest, where passengers enjoyed a 90-minute break while the train was serviced.

A major highlight of the trip was the exploration of the seldom-visited Robeston branch, a treat for the rail enthusiasts who filled the train to capacity, necessitating a waiting list for hopeful travellers. The venture concluded at Milford Haven, where passengers disembarked for a photo session before the train commenced its return journey to London, including a final scenic pass via the Swansea Avoiding line and the Bishton flyover.

Local Councillor Nicola Harteveld of Milford Haven Town Council expressed delight at the influx of visitors, noting, “What an incredible sight at Milford Waterfront today with passengers enjoying our local scenery. It’s a testament to the unique charm and appeal of special rail tours.”

First class passengers were treated to The Great British Breakfast and a four-course dinner, while a buffet car served those in standard class, ensuring all passengers enjoyed their journey with comfort and style.

This tour, fully booked in all classes, underscores the continuing enthusiasm for unique rail experiences in the UK, combining a love for heritage rail with the exploration of less-travelled tracks. As the train made its way back to London Paddington, the participants reflected on a day filled with adventure and picturesque landscapes, leaving them with memories of a rare rail journey along the historic and scenic routes of Wales.

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