Murphy to Add 80 Sites

Seeks to re-establish growth pattern with new Wal-Mart, standalone locations

EL DORADO, Ark. -- During the oil company's fourth-quarter 2009 earnings call late last week, Murphy Oil Corp. president and chief executive officer David Wood said that downstream expenditures included approximately $200 million to build 80 additional retail sites, up from the 26 sites built in 2009.

"In 2010, we will be growing our chain of 1,050 retail locations by adding an additional 80 sites, which will be a combination of Murphy USA locations at Wal-Mart supercenters and our standalone Murphy Express offer," Wood said.

Hank Heithaus, president of retail marketing [image-nocss] for Murphy Oil, told CSP Daily News: "We are looking to develop about 80 sites this year which will re-establish our growth pattern from a few years ago."

In December 1996, Murphy USA opened its first retail store near a Sam's Club parking lot in Chattanooga, Tenn., the company said on its website. Murphy USA is now operating more than 1,000 stores in 21 states.

In November 2006, Murphy Oil opened its first Murphy Express store. Since that time, a total of 43 Murphy Express stores have opened in 11 states. At about 2,400 square feet, Murphy Express is a relatively larger-format convenience store compared to its 250-sq.-ft. kiosks seen at most Wal-Mart sites. Each site also features an average of 12 multi-pump dispensers.

In 2000, Bentonville, Ark.-based Wal-Mart Stores Inc. began ratcheting down its new store openings, from340 as recently as 2006 to as few as 55 in 2008, according to a July 2008 CSP magazine report (click on the Download Now button below to read the story), In 2005,Wal-Mart, which already operated its own fuel sites at its Sam's Club warehouse division, began testing its own fuel brand at Wal-Mart stores. And in 2007, Murphy Oil began buying up the land under its retail operations (click here for previous coverage). As of February 2008, Murphy had acquired the land under 730 sites from Wal-Mart and planned to acquire more. The rest will continue to be governed by master agreements that vary from10 to 15 years, with two successive five-year extension options.

After Murphy Oil's growth outside Wal-Mart stores slowed in 2008, it stepped up construction of the Murphy Express format.

San Antonio, Texas-based Tesoro Corp., which also operated gas stations for Wal-Mart, shut down 42 of its Mirastar stations outside Wal-Mart stores in August 2008. Another 34 Mirastar sitespart of a joint venture between Tesoro and the mass retailercontinued to be operated by Tesoro (click here for previous coverage).

El Dorado, Ark.-based Murphy Oil last week announced that net income in the fourth quarter of 2009 was $318.8 million ($1.65 per diluted share), compared to net income of $127.4 million (67 cents per diluted share) in the fourth quarter 2008.

For the year of 2009, net income totaled $837.6 million ($4.35 per diluted share), which was significantly below the $1.74 billion ($9.06 per diluted share) of net income in 2008.

The company's refining and marketing operations incurred a loss of $4.1 million in the fourth quarter of 2009 compared to income of $140.5 million in the 2008 quarter. The unfavorable variance in results in the 2009 quarter compared to 2008 was primarily attributable to significantly weaker U.S. retail marketing margins in the latest quarter. Additionally, refining margins in 2009 in the U.S. were well below those in the 2008 quarter.

The company's refining and marketing operations generated income of $71.7 million in 2009, compared to record profits of $313.8 million in 2008. The reduction in 2009 profits was caused mostly by lower U.S. retail gasoline sales margins.

Click hereto read the full earnings-call transcript, provided by SeekingAlpha.com.