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    LUKOIL Eyes CITGO's Assets

    The Russian oil producer is interested in the company's assets that could be put up for sale.

    NEW YORK -- LUKOIL, a Russian oil company with a retail presence on the United States' East Coast, is interested in any CITGO Petroleum Corp. assets that might be put up for sale, as the company looks to expand its U.S. presence in the refining market, reported Reuters.

    LUKOIL's future plans include the shipment of crude oil from Russia's Timan-Pechora region to the U.S. East Coast to be refined for its gas stations in the Northeast, making stateside refining assets valuable, said Vadim Gluzman, LUKOIL's head of the U.S. branch.

    Although the company is not currently in discussions to buy refining assets, it would make plans for refining once plans for shipment are in place, Gluzman told Reuters. Production in the Timan region is slated to begin in 2007.

    LUKOIL has approximately 2,000 retail gas stations in the States but could expand to 3,000, mainly in the Northeast, Gluzman told Reuters. He added that the company looks at individual U.S. outlets for sale and would be interested in a chain of gas stations.

    "Our [ambition] is to expand our footprint in the United States -- we are looking to buy more sites, more stations in the 13 Northeast states we operate," Gluzman said. "The next step is to integrate that with our long position on the crude production side."

    A larger presence in the United States is one part of LUKOIL's larger goal to market itself as a global oil company and create a large presence in the United States' refining and marketing segments, Reuters reported.

    "The United States is not only the main financial market in the world; it's the No. 1 gasoline consumer market in the world as well," he continued. "So for us it's extremely important to be present in that market."

    LUKOIL came to the United States in 2000, when it purchased 1,300 Getty Petroleum Marketing stations, then buying ConocoPhillips stations in New Jersey and Pennsylvania.

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