Mergers & Acquisitions

FTC Orders Divestment in Global Partners’ Wheels Deal

Acquirer must sell 7 stores to Petroleum Marketing Investment Group to preserve competition, agency says
global partners

WASHINGTON — Global Partners LP and Richard Wiehl have agreed to divest seven stores that sell gasoline and diesel fuel in five local markets in Connecticut to Petroleum Marketing Investment Group LLC to settle Federal Trade Commission (FTC) charges that Global Partners’ proposed acquisition of 27 retail gasoline and diesel outlets owned or operated by Wiehl violates federal antitrust laws.

In December 2020, Global Partners signed an agreement to acquire the retail fuel and convenience-store assets of Wiehl’s family-owned company, Consumers Petroleum of Connecticut Inc., Milford, Conn. The deal includes 27 company-operated gas stations with Wheels-branded c-stores in Connecticut. The transaction also includes fuel supply agreements for approximately 25 stations in Connecticut and New York.

  • Global Partners is No. 27 on CSP's 2021 Top 202 ranking of U.S. c-store chains by number of company-owned retail outlets.

Waltham, Mass.-based Global Partners operates 1,550 retail outlets selling gasoline and diesel fuel, mainly in the northeastern United States.

According to the complaint, markets for retail gasoline and retail diesel fuel are highly localized, and consumers have no economic or practical alternatives to the retail sale of gasoline or diesel fuel. The complaint alleges that the acquisition will harm competition for the retail sale of gasoline in and around the Connecticut towns and cities of Fairfield, Bethel, Milford, Wilton and Shelton. In all of these local markets except Wilton, the acquisition will also harm competition for the retail sale of diesel fuel.

“Left unremedied, this transaction would have significantly increased concentration in a number of retail gasoline and diesel markets in Connecticut, enabling the merged firm to increase prices and harm consumers,” said Holly Vedova, director of the FTC’s Bureau of Competition. “This enforcement action shows the FTC’s continued vigilance in protecting consumers from anticompetitive transactions in the oil and gas industry.”

The complaint alleges that in each of the local gasoline and diesel retail fuel markets where the commission alleges harm, the acquisition would reduce the number of independent market participants to three or fewer.

Under the terms of the proposed consent order, Global Partners and Wiehl must divest to Petroleum Marketing Investment Group six Global retail fuel outlets and one Wheels retail fuel outlet. For 10 years, Global must obtain prior approval from the Commission before acquiring retail fuel assets within a 2-mile driving distance of any divested outlet. Divestiture buyer Petroleum Marketing Investment Group, Falls Church, Va., must obtain prior approval from the FTC for a period of three years before transferring any of the divested stations to any buyer, and for a period of seven years before transferring a divested station to any buyer with an interest in a retail fuel outlet within two miles’ driving distance of that divested station.

The FTC offered further details about the consent order, which includes an order to maintain assets and allows the commission to appoint a monitor if necessary to ensure compliance with the order, are set forth in the analysis to aid public comment for this matter.

The vote to issue the complaint and accept the proposed consent order for public comment was 4-0.

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