MOSCOW -- Russia's largest private oil producer, Lukoil (IW 1000/23), said Monday it is selling its filling stations in three central European nations as part of an "optimization" plan that has already seen it pull out of Ukraine.
The decision came just weeks after the CEO of the ambitious firm -- which produces one-sixth of Russia's oil and more than 2% of the world total -- warned that increasingly tough Western economic sanctions would "have repercussions for all (Russian) companies."
Lukoil said in a brief statement that it is selling its network of 44 filling stations in the Czech Republic to Slovnaft, the Slovak subsidiary of Hungary's MOL Group (IW 1000/179).
It added that its 75 stations in Hungary and 19 in Slovakia would both be purchased by Hungary's Norm Benzinkut Kft.
Lukoil said the deals will close by the end of the year but provided no financial details.
"The decision to sell the assets was taken as part of the effort to optimize Lukoil's business in petroleum product markets," its statement said.
The United States and EU nations hit Russia last month with stiff sanctions against vital economic sectors such as oil production in response to Russia's involvement in war-torn Ukraine.
The punitive steps had forced foreign investors to flee the Russian market even before their announcement. But the possibility that the West may soon take even tougher measures has made even the country's most profitable companies revise their plans.
Lukoil CEO Vagit Alekperov is not believed to be a member of Russian President Vladimir Putin's inner circle nor one of the prime targets of future economic sanctions.
But anti-Russian sentiment has risen sharply in Central and Eastern European countries that were one directly ruled by Moscow, which accuse Putin of trying to recreate a post-Soviet empire.
The Kremlin denies backing pro-Russian insurgents in eastern Ukraine who have been waging a three-month war against Kiev's new pro-European leadership.
Lukoil says on its company website that it is the world's largest privately-owned oil and gas company when measured by petroleum reserves.
Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2014