Statoil station takeover stunned rivals

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Last week’s surprise announcement that Statoil had accepted a bid from a major Canadian retail firm to take over its majority-owned chain of gasoline stations left rivals in the dust. They don’t have much of a chance now to make a competing bid.

Statoil owns 54 percent of Statoil Fuel & Retail, which operates around 2,300 full service gas stations in Scandinavia, Poland, Russia and the Baltic countries. Statoil Fuel & Retail also operates 12 terminals in Europe, has a fleet of around 400 tank trucks, 50 depots and delivers fuel to 85 airports in 10 countries. It also has more than 18,000 employees.

Now it’s all about to be taken over by Couche-Tard of Canada, which runs similar operations in North America including the Circle K chain of convenience stores. It offered NOK 53 per share or around NOK 16 billion in cash for Statoil Fuel & Retail, a price that was 50 percent over Statoil’s last trade. It amounts to the second-largest sale ever of a Norwegian company to a foreign buyer.

Several investors in Statoil Fuel & Retail were happy but Norwegian rivals and potential bidders were caught by surprise, not least since Statoil would have to pay high fees if the sale to Couche-Tard doesn’t go through. That means any rival bid would need to exceed Couche-Tard’s and cover the cost of the fees.

An employees’ representative said he was “disappointed.” They didn’t think Statoil would sell off its retail distribution system so quickly and wanted to remain under Norwegian ownership. The deal marks a major expansion for Couche-Tard into Europe and a Statoil executive claimed it was a “good transaction” for both companies.

Views and News staff