Sunoco Retail Sale Speculation Grows

Marathon Petroleum, Couche-Tard, Global Partners top list of possible buyers

DALLAS -- Energy Transfer Partners (ETP) could fetch up to $1.8 billion for the 4,900 gasoline stations it acquired when it agreed to buy Sunoco last month in a $5.3 billion deal, Raymond James analysts said, according to a Wall Street Journal report in its "Deal Journal" blog.

The natural-gas pipeline operator primarily bought Sunoco for it's 7,900 miles of oil and refined fuel pipelines.

The big question is whether ETP could find a buyer for the entire chain, with stores throughout 23 states in the Northeast, Southeast and Midwest, or would have to sell it in pieces.

Possible buyers include refiner Marathon Petroleum, Alimentation Couche-Tard and Global Partners, industry insiders cited by the newspaper said.

"Energy Transfer I would believe is getting a good amount of interest," Raymond James analyst Darren Horowitz said.

ETP spokesperson Vicki Granado declined to talk about the price tag being attached to the retail segment, but told the newspaper that interest was "high."

"They have had a lot of inbound calls, but nothing that has gained any traction yet," Granado said.

CSP Daily News readers appeared confident that the company will sell off the retail assets. In response to a poll that asked, "What do you expect ETP ultimately to do with Sunoco's retail assets?", half (more than 49% of approximately 70 respondents) said that they believe ETP will sell them all off by the end of the year, and about 34% said that it will keep the best sites and sell the rest. Only 9% said that they believe ETP will maintain, manage and grow them as its own, and 3% said they believe it will keep them as is; 4.5% said "other" (see Thursday's CSP Daily News poll to vote for the company, if any, that you think will buy Sunoco's retail assets).

Meanwhile, negotiations continue between Sunoco and Carlyle Group, which are exploring a joint venture to operate Sunoco's 330,000 barrel-per-day Philadelphia refinery. A decision by Carlyle, which hinges largely on the private-equity firm's ability to find a way to get cheap crude from North Dakota to the Philadelphia facility, is not expected for at least a couple more weeks, people familiar with the matter told the Journal.

Sunoco is a leading logistics and retail company. The company has approximately 7,900 miles of crude oil and refined product owned and operated pipelines and approximately 40 product terminals through its 34% ownership interest in Sunoco Logistics. Sunoco markets gasoline through approximately 4,900 retail outlets in 23 states stretching from Maine to Florida and west to Indiana, and operates nearly 400 APlus convenience stores.

(See Related Content below for previous CSP Daily News coverage.)