4 Nov 2009

Super Fund move questioned

10:32 am on 4 November 2009

Some oil industry insiders are questioning the value of the New Zealand Superannuation Fund and infrastructure investor Infratil potentially getting into petrol retailing.

The consortium has submitted a conditional proposal to Shell to buy some of its domestic assets, including a stake in the New Zealand Refining Company and 229 petrol stations.

The retail side of Shell's New Zealand business, excluding its interests in the civil contracting company Fulton Hogan and the refining company, lost $63.9 million in 2008.

The chief executive of the oil exploration company L&M Petroleum, John Bay, says fuel retailing is a tough business and often comes down to the amount of pies sold at petrol stations.

Steve O'Connor, from the petroleum business consultant Diligenz, says the oil refining business will help make the marginal retail side more attractive to the consortium.

"I don't think just selling petrol in a market where everybody's encouraged not to use their cars is a good growth scenario for an investor," he says.

Green Party co-leader Russel Norman says it's irresponsible to invest in the retail side of an oil industry that is going to face severe external shocks within ten years.

But a business commentator, Rod Oram, says BP has shown profits can be made.