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    Circle K Sale Expected in Third Quarter

    ConocoPhillips claims "discussions currently are under way with potential buyers."

    HOUSTON -- In a highly anticipated move, Conoco Phillips Inc., the Houston-based oil refiner that owns all of the Circle K convenience stores and gas stations, said Wednesday that it expects to complete the sale of thousands of its U.S. stores during the third quarter.

    In a filing sent Wednesday to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), and reported by Reuters, ConocoPhillips also reported the hiring of an unnamed investment banking firm and the active marketing of these stations in several packages.

    "Discussions currently are under way with potential buyers, and we expect to complete the sales of these assets by the end of 2003," the company said in its quarterly earnings report.

    ConocoPhillips was created in 2003 the merger of Conoco Inc. and Phillips Petroleum Co., and the year-earlier figures are for Phillips as a standalone company. The company sells fuel at more than 17,000 outlets in the United States under the 76, Circle K, Conoco, breakplace and Phillips 66 brands and has a refining capacity of 2.6 million barrels per day.

    After completing the merger last year, the company told investors it would sell 3,200 marketing sites as part of plans to reduce its capital investment in refining and marketing activities.

    Analysts, however, have speculated that the stations sold would consist mostly of older Phillips and Tosco stations, and would likely number about 2,000. The company is expected to raise about $1.5 billion to $2 billion through the sale.

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