Total interested in exploring Saudi petrol station market with Aramco

Total and Aramco are considering the joint acquisition of petrol station operators in Saudi Arabia, two sources familiar with the matter said. (Reuters)
Updated 26 April 2018
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Total interested in exploring Saudi petrol station market with Aramco

LONDON: Total is exploring options to enter Saudi Arabia’s petrol station market in conjunction with Saudi Aramco, as international interest in the Kingdom’s fuel distribution sector hots up.

A spokesman for the French energy major told Arab News that “several possibilities (are) under evaluation” for entering the sector, following the signature of an MoU with Aramco earlier this month “to evaluate the feasibility of jointly acquiring a retail service station network in Saudi Arabia.”

Bloomberg reported yesterday that the two firms are considering jointly acquiring Tas’helat Marketing Company, which operates petrol stations in the Kingdom under the “Sahel” brand, citing people with knowledge of the matter.

The Total spokesman declined to comment on the report.

Aramco is the sole distributor to Saudi Arabia’s petrol stations, but has no stations of its own, despite announcing plans to enter the sector in 2014.

Total and Aramco’s evaluation of the sector follows an uptick in interest from regional distributors.

Dubai-based ENOC in February opened what it described what it described as Saudi Arabia’s largest petrol station in the Modon industrial area of Riyadh, its 10th in the Kingdom. The company said at the time it planned to open further distribution facilities in the country later this year, giving no further details.

Abu Dhabi’s ADNOC Distribution meanwhile plans to open its first petrol station in Saudi Arabia later this year, following the award of an operating license last week.

Expansion into Saudi Arabia is a key strategic initiative of the fuel retailer, which operates nationwide in the UAE apart from in Dubai, and contributed to the success of its IPO on the Abu Dhabi stock market at the end of last year.
 
But a big play into the sector by Total and Aramco may well disrupt ADNOC Distributions plans, analysts have cautioned.

“In the pre-IPO presentation, ADNOC Distribution did not provide sufficient details for analysts to work in the potential for (Saudi operations) into their models,” Sanyalak Manibhandu, head of research at FAB Securities, told Arab News.

“Much was made of the potential of improving the standard of KSA service stations.  If Aramco/Total are really going to compete on the service station forecourt and the adjacent grocery store, the potential will not be so good for competitors.”

Oman Oil Marketing Company earlier this month announced plans for a petrol station in Saudi Arabia, its first outside the Sultanate, after receiving an operating license in the Kingdom in 2015.

BMI Research last month forecast that Saudi car sales will rise by 4 percent in 2018, after having fallen by over 20 percent in 2016 and 2017.

But last year’s lifting of a ban on female drivers will have only a moderate impact on the market, the research firm said, coming into effect only in June, with many families already owning cars for use by women but are currently driven by paid drivers.

The agreement by Total and Aramco to explore options in the fuel distribution sector was signed on April 10, alongside the signing of an MoU between the two firms to build a large petrochemical complex in Jubail, integrated downstream of Aramco’s SATORP refinery.


France’s Total has officially left Iran: oil minister

Updated 20 August 2018
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France’s Total has officially left Iran: oil minister

  • Total said it would be impossible to remain in Iran unless it received a specific waiver from Washington, which was not granted
  • Total would have been highly vulnerable to US penalties for remaining in Iran
TEHRAN: French energy giant Total has officially quit its multi-billion-dollar gas project in Iran, Oil Minister Bijan Namdar Zanganeh said on Monday, following the reimposition of US sanctions.
“Total has officially left the agreement for the development of phase 11 of South Pars (gas field). It has been more than two months that it announced that it would leave the contract,” he told parliament’s news agency ICANA.
Zanganeh also appeared before parliament to underline the dire state of Iran’s oil and gas facilities, which he said were “worn out” and in need of renovation that Iran could not afford.
The United States said in May that it was abandoning the 2015 nuclear deal and reimposing sanctions on Iran in two phases in August and November.
The second phase will target Iran’s oil industry.
The other parties to the nuclear deal — Britain, France, Germany, China and Russia — have vowed to stay in the accord but their companies risk huge penalties if they keep doing business in Iran.
Total had already said it would be impossible to remain in Iran unless it received a specific waiver from Washington, which was not granted.
Total signed up in July 2017 for the $4.8 billion project to develop the field off Iran’s southern coast, as the lead partner alongside the China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC) and Iran’s Petropars.
It was due to make an initial $1 billion investment, but the company said in May that it had spent less than €40 million on the project to date, as uncertainty over US actions mounted.
Total would have been highly vulnerable to US penalties for remaining in Iran.
The company has $10 billion of capital employed in its US assets, and US banks are involved in 90 percent of its financing operations, Total said in May.
It remains unclear whether CNPC will take over Total’s stake in the project.
Iran remains wary of relying on Chinese firms after bad experiences in the past. A previous contract for CNPC to develop the field at South Pars was suspended in 2011 after it failed to make progress.
The urgent need for investment to upgrade Iran’s dilapidated energy infrastructure was a key motivator behind its decision to join the 2015 nuclear deal.
Zanganeh appeared in parliament on Monday to answer questions on safety concerns following a number of recent fires at refineries.
“A big part of the oil industry has been worn out and the necessary renovation has not taken place,” he told parliament, according to the official IRNA news agency.
He said there were 10 cases per day of tubes perforating in Iran’s southern facilities, and that some refineries were as much as 80 years old, “whereas the useful life of an industrial unit is 30 years.”
“We have no resources for renovating them,” he added.