Is Shell about to give up its leading place in Barbados?

Oct 25, 2004 02:00 AM

by Roy R. Morris

One of the most internationally recognised symbols in the oil business could be about to give up its leading place in gasoline distribution and retail here to a distinctly Barbadian brand.
But first, Simpson Oil, the local company bidding for Shell Antilles and Guianas' 22 gas stations in Barbados, as well as similar operations in nearly a dozen other regional countries, has to overcome competing bids from interests in Trinidad and Tobago and Martinique.

National Petroleum (NP) of Trinidad, and Total, a French company operating a major refinery in Martinique, along with Simpson Oil, a company formed by automobile magnate Kyffin Simpson, have reportedly made multi-million dollar offers for Shell's retail arms in Barbados, St Martin, St Kitts, Nevis, Anguilla, Grenada, St Vincent, St Lucia, Guyana, Suriname and Belize.
Sources insisted that one of the conditions of negotiations was that all parties sign non-disclosure agreements.

Nicholas Shorthose, the head of Shell's local operations, when questioned, made it clear "we have not signed any contracts with anyone", acknowledging instead "we have been discussing a number of commercial possibilities with a number of people". Shorthose added that "any further discussion on these matters at this stage would be premature", and declined to answer any questions on the status of the Simpson Oil bid.
"If and when the point arrives we would be only too happy to discuss it," he concluded.

Also operating out of the Wildey building is Shell Western, an offshore company involved in the large-scale shipping of fuels around the region, and sources said it had no intention of parting with the lucrative operation. Since Mobil Oil pulled out of Barbados in the late 1990s and sold its retail stations to Shell, that company has been the biggest operator of gas stations in the country, with competition provided only by Esso and Texaco, which together operate as many stations as Shell.
And while industry sources confirmed that at least one of these competitors had been interested in getting possession of the Shell chain, local fair competition legislation prohibits any one entity for controlling more than 40 % of the market without special permission from the Government.

Source: Nationnews
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