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Site Lets Small Firms Hedge Fuel Costs (Updated)

This story was originally published on March 26, 2011. It has been updated to include new information about the company.

REDWOOD CITY, Calif. ( TheStreet) -- Small and midsize businesses hurt by rising fuel prices can follow a risk-management strategy once available only to large companies.

Pricelock offers fuel price protection through what is essentially an insurance policy. It is able to offer the strategy online by grouping businesses and working with investment banks.

The Pricelock Web site lets business owners hedge against rising fuel costs; clients pay a fee that protects them when prices rise above the maximum they're willing to pay.

Buyers of fuel and energy looking to hedge their costs can have as few as three trucks or five pickups. As long as a company is exposed to increased fuel prices, they can use the online service, CEO Naveen Agarwal said last year (he was then the company's COO). Fuel hedging has eluded smaller firms in the past, although larger companies -- including most of the major airlines -- hedge their fuel prices.

The company has since expanded to include Pricelock Marketplace, an online auction platform where sellers of energy -- whether that's natural gas, coal or transportation fuel -- can compete for customers. Pricelock launched the additional service in September. Through the platform, suppliers have detailed information needed to compete for business that ensures buyers get better prices, not to mention reduced paperwork and instant access to historical information, the company says.

The company has signed up nine of the top 10 natural gas sellers in less than a year, and three of the top five refiners use its service, it says.

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