Royal Dutch Shell Sells Australian Assets For $2.6B

NEW YORK (The Deal) -- Royal Dutch Shell's (RDS.A) $15 billion asset sale continued apace Friday as the company notched its fourth sale in under two months - and its second in as many days - with the A$2.9 billion ($2.6 billion) disposal of its Australian downstream business.

Dutch oil trading company Vitol Group will take over Shell's 870 Australian gas stations, a loss making refinery as well as bulk fuels, bitumen and chemicals operations.

Vitol, which was backed by sovereign wealth fund Abu Dhabi Investment Council, edged out a rival consortium of Macquarie Group Ltd. and Glencore Xstrata plc in an auction of the assets.

Shell and Vitol declined to provide revenue or earnings figures for the Australian assets. "The margins are not great at the moment because of the losses at the refining business but Vitol is confident it can improve performance," said a Vitol spokeswoman. Shell had planned to close the Geelong, Victoria-based refinery if it couldn't find a buyer for the operation.

Rotterdam-based Vitol will seek to bolster its new Australian operation with further acquisitions of distribution assets in Australia, Vitol chief executive Ian Taylor told journalists on Friday. "We will be encouraging local management to come up with plans to expand the business. That is indeed exactly why we bought it," he said.

The deal takes Shell's CEO Ben Van Beurden's disposals to more than $4.7 billion since he took control of the company in January with a commitment to slash capital costs by offloading $15 billion of assets by the end of 2015.

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