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    BP Pulling Out of Colorado Market

    Oil giant expected to sell off 100 service stations statewide.

    DENVER -- The familiar green-and-yellow sunburst will be setting soon at BP gas stations in Colorado.

    According to a report in the Denver Post, the British petroleum giant is placing its 100 recently remodeled service stations statewide up for sale, leaving Colorado without one of its largest gas retailers.

    Some of the stations might be purchased by large chains such as Conoco or Diamond Shamrock, and some might reopen under smaller brands, industry observers said. Others might close permanently.

    The company is selling or vacating stores in regions where it has little market concentration to focus on larger markets closer to BP refineries in the Southeast, Midwest and on the West coast.

    BP and its franchisees operate 100 service stations in Colorado. Many of the stations formerly operated as Amoco before the two companies merged in 1998. The stations were rebranded four years later, in 2002.

    BP officials declined to confirm the Colorado plan, the newspaper reported.

    The company was planning to hold a meeting yesterday with Colorado dealers in Lone Tree to announce the selloff, local BP dealers and gasoline industry sources said.

    Petroleum firms that plan to sell assets are required to give notice to employees, franchisees and state officials under the federal Petroleum Marketing Practices Act.

    The sale is not expected to affect BP's oil and natural gas operations in Colorado, where it is one of the state's largest producers.

    BP will attempt to sell as many of the stations as it can to keep them open and reduce the effect on consumers and employees.

    However, independent dealers who own or operate stations under franchise agreements said they fear that some stations will close.

    "The future is uncertain for many of us," Michael Berrigan, operator of a BP station in Boulder, told the Post. "I suspect they'll have a difficult time finding buyers for all of the stations."

    BP's 100 Colorado stations are split roughly evenly among three groups: company-owned stores; large franchisees, or jobbers, who own multiple stations; and independent dealers who may own just one or two stations.

    Among gas retailers, BP has tended to invest the most money for improvements in company-owned stations, making those outlets the most likely to find buyers, Berrigan said.

    BP spent as much as $2 million to $3 million each at some stations beginning in 2002 to change signs, colors and store design during the conversion from Amoco to BP. The company even installed solar-collecting panels, which it trumpeted as a key environmental initiative.

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