By ANDY HOFFMAN and BRETT FOLEY
Vitol Group, the worlds largest independent oil trader,
is considering a bid for some of Royal Dutch Shell's
Australian downstream operations, according to two people
with knowledge of the matter.
Geneva-based Vitol is studying assets including storage
terminals, filling stations and an oil refinery
in Geelong, south of
Melbourne, said the people, asking not to be identified as
the details are private. Buyout firm TPG Capital and a group
led by Macquarie Group are also weighing bids for some of the
assets, two people familiar with the situation said.
Shell, Europes biggest oil company, is stepping up
asset sales after spending a record $45 billion on project
s and acquisitions last
year. Its earnings from refining
and marketing dropped by
almost half to $892 million in the three months to September.
The Hague-based companys Australian unit said in April
it would sell the Geelong refinery
to focus on larger
plants, such as the Pulau Bukom refinery
in Singapore. The Geelong
facility, which processes about 120,000 bpd of oil, may be
converted to a fuel import terminal if a sale isnt
completed, according to its website.
Shell also has a network of about 900 filling stations in
Australia, two-thirds of which are operated by its retail
partner Coles Group Ltd., owned by Wesfarmers Ltd.
Spokesmen for Shell, Vitol, Macquarie and TPG declined to
comment. Shell plans to sell about A$3 billion ($2.7 billion)
of Australian assets and is talking to parties including TPG
and a group that includes Macquarie, the Australian
Financial Review reported today, citing unidentified
Shell is being advised by Bank of America Corp. on the sale,
the people said.
Vitol agreed in 2011 to buy the bulk of Shells
downstream business in 14 African countries, alongside
Africa-focused private equity firm Helios Investment
Partners, for about $1 billion. The Swiss company owns and
operates refineries in the United Arab Emirates, Switzerland
and the Netherlands with a refining
capacity of about 150,000
bpd, according to its website. It also has a storage terminal
venture with facilities
in 14 countries.
Australias Macquarie Capital agreed in August to buy
45% of Singapores Helios Terminal Corp. from Oiltanking
for an undisclosed sum, the closely-held German company said
Oiltanking bought the terminal on Jurong Island, which
comprises 18 storage tanks, from Chemoil Energy for $285
million a year ago.