National railways cite refinery closure losses
The closure of one of Switzerland’s last two oil refineries has put a major dent in the financial health of the national railway company’s cargo division.
Only two months ago the Swiss Federal Railways announced that its international cargo division had posted a profit for the first time in its history, due to new markets and increased shipping to existing customers.
“Due to lost orders from the restructuring at Tamoil, we have lost the equivalent of several million francs,” a spokesman for Swiss Federal Railways, Reto Schärli, told Swiss public television SRF on Monday. But he added that Tamoil continues to sell oil products in Switzerland, and those will have to be imported, which could help compensate for the cargo division’s losses.
The Federal Railways announced profits of CHF33 million in 2014 – more than double the CHF15 million profit from a year earlier. Its international subsidiary had helped by contributing a CHF1 million profit, its first ever. The international cargo division, which was founded in 2010 and employs 670 people, operates along the international corridor between the North Sea ports and northern Italy.
The Swiss branch of Libya’s Tamoil petroleum company suspended operations in March at its refinery on the eastern tip of Lake Geneva, citing “severe market pressures” in the Swiss refining market that it said were in line with the European refining industry.
The 55,000-barrel-per day refinery at Collombey had employed more than 200 people in canton Valais, which had tried to keep the plant running by courting potential buyers. The government-owned Tamoil energy group, whose parent company was put on a United Nations sanctions list, also had employed about 20 people in Geneva.
The Collombey plant was one of only two oil refineries in Switzerland. The other is located at Cressier, in canton Neuchâtel, where it is operated by Varo Energy for Vitol and the Carlyle Group.
Following the Collombey refinery’s closure, Basel’s ports on the Rhine River reported a 14% increase in oil imports over a year ago and expect an increase of up to 50% by the end of the year, according to SRF.
Tamoil’s Swiss refinery had been supplying more than 300 gas stations throughout Switzerland. Its output and that of two other refineries in Hamburg, Germany, and Cremona, Italy had provided about 2 percent of the roughly 14 million barrels a day that power Europe.
The refinery operated as part of the Dutch-based holding company, Oilinvest (Netherlands) BV, which in turn has been owned by the Libyan Investment Authority, the country's sovereign wealth fund. It had been put under international sanctions for having been controlled by deceased Libyan ex-dictator Moammar Gaddafi or people close to him.
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