Big APAC players eye United Petroleum

A suggested $1 billion price tag for the petrol station and fuel import terminal assets may be an overreach.

Big APAC-based oil and gas players are eyeing United Petroleum for a joint venture or purchase, despite downstream acquisitions being broadly out of favour, according to industry sources.

Super majors like Chevron are unlikely to be interested in the group – which buys and supplies fuel for retailers - but APAC-headquartered players like Malaysia’s Petronas could be in the mix.  United Petroleum’s advisers KPMG Corporate Finance refused to comment on the process. Caltex Petroleum, Australia’s only listed oil refiner, is also said to have expressed interest, but any proposal could face opposition from the ACCC.

Some bankers have suggested the $1 billion price tag attached to United Petroleum is an overreach, saying it was likely to attract closer to $600 million. Bids were initially due in the end of October but it is understood the deadline has been extended.

Private-equity sources say United has been shopped around to international players and the bigger Australian firms, including KKR, TPG, Blackstone, Affinity Capital Partners, Carlyle and Warburg Pincus. A consortium of funds could also make a play.

United Petroleum, founded by Avi Silver and Eddie Hersch, runs a chain of petrol stations across Australia and fuel import terminals in Victoria, NSW, Tasmania and the Northern Territory.

Another possible trade buyer is Puma, owned by Dutch-based commodities trader Trafigura Beheer. Puma this year bought Ausfuel for $625 million from private equity firm Archer Capital, and Neumann Petroleum for more than $250 million.
Earlier this month, Caltex Australia Ltd entered a conditional agreement to sell its Sydney-based bitumen business to Puma, subject to approval from the Foreign Investment Review Board.

"Caltex's strategy is to remain Australia's leading transport fuels player," Caltex Australia managing director Julian Segal said.

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