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    Hess & Statoil: A Future Merger?

    Decision on future of oil company's retail division should be coming soon.

    NEW YORK -- A new player has emerged as a potential acquirer of Hess Corp.: Norway-based Statoil ASA.

    According to The Motley Fool, Statoil is looking to diversify beyond its Norway base and Hess would make an excellent fit. If consummated, Hess would give Statoil a $28-billion company with significant fuel-related assets around the world.

    Although Exxon Mobil Corp. and Chevron Corp. have also been named in the past as possible acquirers of New York City-based Hess, the financial news outlet believes Statoil could be a better fit as it has been linked to Hess in the past.

    One major question comes into play if Statoil buys Hess, though. What happens to Hess' convenience store and gas station division? Hess stated during its most recent earnings call that it expected to sell or spin off its retail division of more than 1,300 stores by mid-2014, a date that is fast approaching. The company said it was looking into both options concurrently in an effort to see which method would benefit its shareholders the most.

    A retail sale or spinoff may need to take place before Hess can be acquired. Statoil already sold its retail division in 2012 to Alimentation Couche-Tard Inc. and is unlikely to return to such operations. The same can perhaps be said for ExxonMobil and Chevron, both of whom have pretty much exited c-store operations.

    Laval, Quebec-based Couche-Tard has been named as one potential acquirer of Hess' entire retail division. Speedway LLC has also been named, as Gary Heminger, CEO of parent company Marathon Petroleum Corp., has stated on multiple occasions that he likes Hess' retail assets.

    Although not linked to Hess in any official reports, it is difficult to count out Dallas-based Energy Transfer Partners LP (ETP) as a potential acquirer as well. The master limited partnership acquired Sunoco Inc. and Mid-Atlantic Convenience Stores. In addition, ETP recently announced it will acquire Corpus Christi, Texas-based Susser Holdings Corp. for $1.8 billion. That deal has yet to close, but clearly shows ETP is not adverse to large retail deals.

    An ETP purchase of Hess' retail division would give it a massive base of convenience stores and gas stations in both northeastern and Mid-Atlantic states.

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