By Florence Tan and Seng Li Peng
SINGAPORE (Reuters) - ExxonMobil (XOM.N) said on Wednesday it is in talks to buy a refining-petrochemical complex in Singapore that could boost its fuel and chemical production in Asia.
"We can confirm that we are currently negotiating with the receiver for Jurong Aromatics Corporation Pte Ltd to acquire JAC's assets on Jurong Island," an ExxonMobil spokeswoman said.
"While progress is being made, no agreement has been reached yet," she said.
The U.S. oil company is the frontrunner to buy JAC which went into receivership in September 2015, Thomson Reuters publication Project Finance International reported on Tuesday.
Borelli Walsh had been appointed the receivers and managers of JAC by lender BNP Paribas. Lotte Chemical Corp <011170.KS> said in March that it had dropped out of the race to buy JAC.
Costing $2.4 billion, JAC's condensate splitter and petrochemical units started operations in Asia in 2014 to produce paraxylene, a raw material for textiles and bottles, to meet China's demand.
Singapore is already ExxonMobil's biggest paraxylene production base in the world at 1 million tonnes per year (tpy), according to its 2016 annual report. The proposed JAC acquisition will boost ExxonMobil's paraxylene capacity to 1.8 million tpy and add another 2.5 million tpy of oil products output.
JAC's debt problems mounted amid the global commodities rout and it stopped operations at the end of 2014 to fix a technical issue. The plant was restarted in July 2016 under tolling agreements with BP (BP.L) and Glencore (GLEN.L).
Once the deal is inked, ExxonMobil could take over the purchase of condensate for JAC from July, trade sources said.
(Reporting by Florence Tan and Seng Li Peng in SINGAPORE, and Jane Chung in SEOUL; Editing by Christian Schmollinger)