Exxon's Mobil brand to return to Australian petrol pumps four years after sale

ExxonMobil's Mobil petrol brand is returning to  Australia, four years after the sale of its retail assets to retail chain 7-Eleven in 2010.

Mobil Oil Australia Pty Ltd, a subsidiary of ExxonMobil Australia Pty Ltd yesterday signed a long-term agreement for the sale of Mobil branded fuels at 7-Eleven Australia's convenience stores.

7-Eleven had operated an exclusive arrangement for sale of ExxonMobil fuel in Australia since 2012, without the Mobil branding.

ExxonMobil Australia Chairman Richard Owen said , "This important agreement returns the Mobil fuel brand to service stations across Australian east coast metro markets and also highlights ExxonMobil's commitment to downstream operations.''

''ExxonMobil has been the exclusive supplier of fuel to 7-Eleven service stations since 2012 and the new strategic partnership provides a platform for future growth. 7-Eleven is the leading Australian convenience retailer and has also established a well recognised position in the retail fuels market in Australia over the last decade,'' he said.

7-Eleven Australia's CEO, Warren Wilmot, said the company was pleased to extend its relationship with ExxonMobi said the rollout of Mobil branding across 7-Eleven stores will take place throughout 2014.

Yesterday's agreement extends over a period of 10 years and would see the Mobil branding rolled out across 7-Eleven's 400-plus petrol stations on Australia's east coast throughout this year. Financial terms have not been disclosed.

Business Insider quoted an ExxonMobil spokesperson, as saying it had no plans to launch new service stations in Australia outside of the 7-Eleven branding deal.

The company sold its 295 retail service stations to 7-Eleven in early 2010, after an earlier proposal for the sale of retail assets to Caltex fell through.

The announcement today came following reports of BP, Shell and perhaps even Chevron were considering selling their Australian refineries and petrol stations for free up capital.

Almost 300 Mobil outlets were sold to 7-Eleven in 2010, under a deal that was expected to see ExxonMobil exit  all downstream operations in Australia.

According to commentators, the Mobil move which has surprised the market comes at an intriguing time in the retail side of the Australian fuel sector, even as BP and Shell were said to be considering a sale of their distribution networks around Australia, Brisbane Times reports.

In an indirect reference to the uncertainty prevailing in the local fuel sector, ExxonMobil Australia chairman Richard Owen said the 7-Eleven deal ''highlights ExxonMobil's commitment to downstream operations''.

There was no explanation for the change of strategy from the companies, however, some observers believe it might be an attempt to capitalise on the increasing demand for premium fuels in Australia.

Rival fuel retailers like Caltex have in recent times reported strong demand for premium fuels as against the traditional unleaded products, and some speculated that the century-old Mobil brand might be more attractive to consumers seeking quality than 7-Eleven.

Brisbane Times quoted Nic Moulis of the Australasian Convenience and Petroleum Marketers Association, as saying, premium fuels were definitely increasing and if one looked at the other three - Caltex, BP and Shell - they all had a proprietary-branded fuel, whereas 7-Eleven at the moment had more of that homogeneous product.