Citic Resources Holdings has cleared an important hurdle in its bid to take over Thailand's largest petrochemical company after a Thai bankruptcy court allowed the mainland firm and its Thai partner access to Thai Petrochemical Industry's (TPI) books. Citic Resources, the listed natural resources arm of state investment firm China International Trust and Investment Corp, wants to form a joint venture with entrepreneur Prachai Leophairatana that would thwart a rival deal brokered by the Thai government. The Thai government is supporting a consortium led by the country's largest energy firm, PTT. Citic Resources has proposed a 5.50 baht ($1.03) per share offer, trumping the 3.30 baht a share proposal from state-owned PTT, Thai Government Saving Bank, Thai Government Pension Fund and Vayupak Mutual Fund One. The rivals are each looking to secure a 75 per cent stake in TPI, which is under court administration on behalf of TPI's creditors. Mr Prachai holds the remaining 25 per cent. A Citic Resources spokeswoman yesterday confirmed the court's decision to allow it to conduct due diligence on TPI but said it had not yet reached an agreement with Mr Prachai on the joint venture's shareholding and other terms. 'It is too early to discuss these things,' she said. Citic Resources chairman Peter Kwok Viem earlier said that if his company's bid succeeded, it would invest US$1 billion to double TPI's production capacity. In addition to drawing on its US$206 million cash reserve as of the end of last year, Citic Resources has lined up China Development Bank to help finance its bid. The PTT-led consortium's proposal includes issuance of 11.65 billion new TPI shares, which would dilute existing shareholders' stakes and reduce Mr Prachai's holding to 10 per cent. Its plan would raise about US$1.42 billion to help repay TPI's creditors, who are owed about US$2.7 billion. Under PTT's plan, US$250 million of the debt's accrued interest would be written off and US$900 million repaid from proceeds of the new share offer. The remaining US$1.8 billion would be divided into four tranches and repaid over five to 12 years. As it stands, Citic Resources' proposal would raise only about US$792 million for TPI but its spokeswoman stressed it had not yet finalised its proposal with Mr Prachai. According to Thai media, Mr Prachai had said in an advertisement that TPI's creditors would 'certainly' receive debt principal and accrued interest. The Citic Resources spokeswoman declined to say whether it would offer creditors cash and shares or invite strategic investors to take part in the restructuring of TPI. Citic Resources' stated strategy is to invest in natural resources of which China is a net importer. The company's bid for TPI comes as state-controlled oil firm CNOOC seeks to outbid US oil major Chevron Corp for control of Unocal Corp.