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    SSP Partners Lands El Paso Stores

    Deal includes 121 convenience stores and 23 unattended fueling stations.

    By John Lofstock

    SSP Partners, the Corpus Christi, Texas-based operator of 184 Circle K convenience stores, today acquired 144 Coastal Mart convenience stores from San Antonio-based El Paso Corp. Terms of the deal, which includes 121 convenience stores, 23 unattended gas stations and the distribution rights to 15 jobber locations, were not disclosed.

    Since El Paso first announced its deal to acquire The Coastal Corp., the companies have slowly sold off Coastal's marketing assets. In January, Coastal sold 204 company-owned stores -- nearly one-third of its portfolio -- to Bartlesville, Okla.-based Phillips Petroleum Co. and Philadelphia-based Sunoco Inc. Phillips and Sunoco hold the rights to the Coastal brand for 10 years, if they decide to use it that long. Both companies indicated they would rebrand the stores.

    SSP has yet to announce whether it will rebrand its Coastal properties.

    Insiders and analysts told Convenience Store News that El Paso, which became a powerhouse in the natural gas business with the completion of its $24-billion acquisition of Coastal, may decide to focus exclusively on its core business. Coastal controlled an estimated 13 percent of the natural gas consumed in the United States.

    In that case, El Paso's company-owned Coastal stores and the supply contracts it holds with dealers and jobbers would go on the selling block. Retailers further speculated the Coastal brand could disappear within a few years.

    The deal with SSP drops El Paso's store count to approximately 200, but still leaves the company in control of Coastal's four refineries in Aruba, Texas, New Jersey and Alabama. The units have a throughput of approximately 485,000 barrels per day. El Paso also distributes to a jobber network of more than 1,000 stores; holds 18,600 miles of natural gas pipelines; and 22 natural gas storage facilities.

    By John Lofstock
    • About John Lofstock

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