By GERALDINE AMIEL
PARIS Total confirmed it acquired Shell fuel retail network in Egypt as part of its strategy to strengthen its distribution position in the country and wider region.
"Through this acquisition, we reaffirm our ambition to pursue our development in Africa and in the Middle East in the retail business," a spokesman for Total said. Asked about the price of the transaction, he declined to disclose any detail.
Total already owns 70 fuel stations in Egypt, representing a 4% market share, and will acquire 85 more from Shell to become Egypt's fourth largest gasoline retailer, doubling its market share, the company said.
Total is strengthening its position as the largest gasoline retailer in Africa, the spokesman added.
Gasoline retail activities have decreased in Western Europe, on the back of lower consumption due to the prolonged economic crisis. Lower cost retailers have also emerged, forcing some major companies to rethink their refining and marketing strategy and focus instead on oil exploration and production.
Prospects in the retail sector are brighter in emerging markets, where demand for gasoline and transport fuels is growing faster.
"The sale is consistent with Shell's strategy to concentrate its downstream footprint on a smaller number of assets and markets," Shell said in a statement. It cited the recent sale of some refineries in the United Kingdome and Germany and its refining and marketing businesses in Finland and Sweden as examples of this.
Total, which has engaged in a massive exploration effort to find new oil and gas reserves, has nevertheless reaffirmed the importance of downstream activities within its business model, even though it has idled some refineries in Europe.
Dow Jones Newswires