Petroineos, an energy business part-owned by Jim Ratcliffe, is looking to secure up to £500m in government loans amid low oil demand, which was triggered by the coronavirus pandemic.
The energy company is jointly owned by Ratcliffe's Ineos Group and a state-owned Chinese company called PetroChina. Petroineos, which is based at Scotland's only oil refinery near Falkirk, and has been discussing a loan package worth hundreds of millions of pounds with the UK and Scottish governments.
Industry insiders told Sky News the business has signalled it could need up to half a billion pounds in state support although a formal request could eventually be significantly smaller. Ratcliffe is estimated to be Britain's third-richest man, worth £18 billion, and is reported to have moved to Monaco for tax purposes.
Oil refineries are struggling after fuel demand collapsed as coronavirus lockdown significantly reduced road travel. Ineos has been keen to stress this potential loan is for its side venture, not the main business.
It is currently unknown if there will be any knock-on effect on Team Ineos, who are estimated to have the highest budget in the WorldTour peloton of around £40 million, and have so far escaped the financial issues that have affected some of their competitors.
It was confirmed yesterday that CCC's sponsor would be pulling out at the end of 2020, and would only be paying riders half of their wages for this year, while Astana boss Alexandre Vinokourov says his team won't survive the season if racing doesn't return.
Ineos told the Times: "It should not come as any surprise that the refinery is talking to the government at a time when demand for fuel has fallen significantly during the period of lockdown," before adding that "the request is not from Ineos but from Petroineos, a 50-50 joint venture between Ineos and Petrochina".
Ineos also said they have spent millions adapting plants to make hand sanitiser for the NHS, which it has supplied for free.
A government spokesperson commented: "Firms can draw upon the government’s comprehensive package of financial support, including loans and guarantees, tax deferrals and the job retention scheme, to help them through this challenging time."
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