BP, Woolworths fuel deal under spotlight

The competition regulator in Australia appears to be relying on local market knowledge to help it decide if BP's $1.8 billion acquisition of Woolworths' fuel business will lessen competition in more than 200 markets.

It is calling for submissions from industry participants after drawing up a list of 226 Woolworths fuel sites that overlap with BP sites. The overlapping sites account for almost half the 531 existing premises and 14 development sites BP proposes to buy from Woolworths in a deal that will make the British-based energy giant the largest fuel retailer and wholesaler in Australia.

The deal is under a cloud because the ACCC fears it may lessen competition in fuel and convenience retailing and lead to higher pump prices by removing a strong competitor.

According to a preliminary screen of 226 overlapping sites published by the ACCC on Tuesday, BP's share of the local market, through BP-branded sites, would reach or exceed 50 per cent at 45 locations and its share would reach or exceed 40 per cent at another 44 location.

In three local markets – Hillarys in Western Australia and Craigieburn and Epsom in Victoria – BP-branded sites would account for 100 per cent of the market.