Could Petronas Lubricants be a potential buyer for Eni’s Versalis chemical unit?

According to a report by Milano Finanza, Malaysia’s Petronas Lubricants International (PLI), a subsidiary of Malaysia’s state-owned oil and gas company, could potentially present a rival offer to buy a majority stake in Versalis, the chemicals unit of Italian oil and gas major Eni SpA. Eni has previously said it is looking for a partner to help it run Versalis as it shifts its focus increasingly to the core business of finding oil and gas.

Last December, it was announced that Eni was in negotiations with SK Capital, a private investment firm headquartered in New York, which also owns TPC Group Inc., a leading producer of value-added products derived from niche petrochemical raw materials such as C4 hydrocarbons.

Eni will make a decision on whether to strike a deal with SK Capital within a week, Milano Finanza said. Eni announced last month that it had chosen SK Capital, among other bidders, as the unit’s potential buyer.

A statement by Eni CEO Claudio Descalzi made in early April, however, was enough to draw interest to its chemicals subsidiary. The executive was cited as saying he had three or four weeks to negotiate the financial terms with the U.S. fund. No deal would be signed unless financial guarantees were offered, he added.

Giuseppe D’Arrigo, the new CEO of Petronas Lubricants, does not exclude a potential interest in the chemicals sector now that the company has set aside its initial public offering (IPO) to focus on international expansion and seek two-fold growth of its European business, Milano Finanza said.

The daily cited D’Arrigo as saying Petronas would explore its options regarding Versalis.