Statoil has a month for Jet ruling appeal


STATOIL, which was blocked from taking over the Jet chain of petrol stations, has until March 16th to appeal to the High Court, the Minister for Enterprise and Employment, Mr Bruton, said yesterday.

Industry sources said last night Statoil may try to devise a modified deal, whereby it would take over a certain number of the Jet stations, while Jet's parent, Conoco, would seek buyers for the remainder.

Mr Bruton, who signed an order prohibiting the proposed £25-£30 million takeover, on foot of a recommendation by the Competition Authority to do so, was addressing the Dail, just hours before meeting Statoil representatives.

Mr Bruton said Statoil could appeal the order he had made to the High Court, on a point of law, within one month of it coming into effect.

"I am satisfied that the interests of the consumer and the common good are best served by prohibiting the proposed takeover," he said.

The Competition Authority, which was asked by the Minister to assess the implications of the takeover, recommended rejection because it said the deal would remove a low cost operator (Jet) from the market. Statoil was seen as a high cost operator in the market, the authority said.

A Statoil spokesman said the company had had "full and frank discussions" with the Minister and had outlined its views on the decision and the implications it has for the company. The meeting lasted for around one hour.

It is understood that Statoil, which is owned by the Norwegian government, has been consulting its legal advisers on whether it could proceed with a High Court challenge to the decision.

Statoil currently has 11 per cent of the market. The Jet deal would have given it more than 27 per cent of the market, making it the largest player. The deal would have meant 257 Jet stations being acquired by Statoil.

Statoil may take High Court proceedings on a point of law, but this could tie up the matter for several months and would thwart any other potential buyers of the Jet stations.

Industry sources said last night that Stat oil may try to put forward another proposal, albeit in a modified form, which would alleviate the Competition Authority's worries about removing a low cost operator from the market.

Statoil could take over a number of the stations and Jet could then try to sell the remainder to outside or to smaller independent operators.