Australia’s $50 billion petrol industry is set for its biggest shake-up in decades, with energy majors Royal Dutch Shell and BP considering the sale of refineries and petrol stations in order to free up cash for their core energy production businesses, reports The Australian Financial Review.
It is understood Shell is in talks with at least two parties – a large private equity firm and a consortium including investment bank Macquarie Group – over the $3 billion sale of 900 petrol stations and its refinery in Geelong.
While sources close to Shell described the negotiations as “preliminary”, it is believed the Anglo-Dutch energy giant is committed to selling what are described as “downstream” assets to focus on its main business of energy exploration, development and production.
Shell chief executive Peter Voster said in November the company was “entering into a divestment phase” amid rising costs for energy projects and investor concern about capital expenditure.
Shell, which has a partnership with supermarket operator Coles in Australia, sold its petrol stations in New Zealand in 2011 and has had the Geelong refinery on the market since April.
It is believed BP is examining a $3 billion sale of its petrol stations and refineries in Queensland and Western Australia. BP supplies fuel to about 1400 petrol stations of which it owns about 225.
Private equity firm Archer Capital kicked off the $625 million-plus sale of its petrol retailer and distributor, Ausfuel, in February to commodities trader Trafigura’s Puma Energy.
Australian retail petrol sales are 48 per cent controlled by Coles and Woolworths, which has a partnership with Caltex. The big oil companies now directly own, operate and set prices for around 10 per cent of sites in Australia following Mobil’s sale of its service stations to 7-Eleven in 2010.