Applegreen and Valero in line for Esso fuel terminal stake
The companies are interested in buying business Topaz must offload in Esso takeover
The Competition and Consumer Protection Commission ordered Topaz to sell Esso’s 50 per cent stake in a fuel terminal in Dublin Port as a condition of being allowed to buy Esso. Photograph: Dave Meehan
Texaco owner Valero Ireland and Applegreen are understood to be in the running to buy the wholesale business that service station operator Topaz must offload as a condition of its takeover of rival Esso.
The Denis O’Brien-owned petrol station chain Topaz bought rival Esso Ireland for €75 million in October, shortly before agreeing to sell the enlarged group to Canada’s Alimentation Couche-Tard for €450 million.
The Competition and Consumer Protection Commission ordered Topaz to sell Esso’s 50 per cent stake in a fuel terminal in Dublin Port as a condition of being allowed to buy the business.
Valero Energy, owner of the other 50 per cent, is said to be interested in buying out the stake that it does not own. Ireland is a convenient market for the group’s refinery in Pembroke in Wales and it is understood to want to consolidate its position here.
Stock market-listed Applegreen is also said to be interested in buying Esso’s stake in the fuel terminal business. The group is a competitor of Topaz and runs 150 service stations, in Ireland, Britain and the US. None of the three companies commented yesterday.
Some sources say that a sale to Valero could have big implications for competition in the wholesale market for motor and other fuels, as it would give it complete control of the business that it now splits with Esso.
The Competition and Consumer Protection Commission will have to approve any purchaser. It said it would “assess any prospective purchaser to ensure that the proposed acquisition satisfies various conditions” and was not likely to threaten competition. It has not assessed any potential buyer for the oil terminal stake.
Topaz has appointed accountancy firm Grant Thornton as trustee to ensure that the company complies with the terms of the commission’s determination, which itself has to approve any trustee appointment.
The EU’s competition watchdog is investigating the proposed sale of Topaz to Alimentation Couche-Tard. The €450 million price that the Canadian business is said to be paying is about twice what Mr O’Brien spent on acquiring the network of 460-plus filling stations.
Mr O’Brien owns about 90 per cent of Topaz. Emmet O’Neill, his nephew and the chief executive of the business, owns about 10 per cent after completing a deal with his uncle last May. If the Brussels authorities allow the sale, the two sides are likely to complete next month or in March.