Swiss-based commodity giant Trafigura has swooped on WA's Gull Petroleum, with its petrol retailing arm Puma Energy acquiring Archer Capital's Ausfuel business for $625 million yesterday.
The move merges Puma's east coast operations with Ausfuel's heavily WA-weighted business to create the nation's biggest independent petrol chain.
The private equity firm Archer Capital bought the Rae family's 98 service station network in December 2010, folding it into its broader Ausfuel business, including the Peak and Choice brands.
WA stations under the Puma umbrella now number about 110, with other independents also sourcing their fuel from the group.
Puma's Australian chief Ray Taylor is well placed to assess the company's WA operations.
He went to Morley Senior High School and then Curtin University before a career at BP - then Puma - beckoned.
Mr Taylor would not be drawn on whether Gull stations would be rebranded with Puma's green and red livery, saying the company would concentrate on integrating its existing operations with Ausfuel's.
"Over time whether we roll out (the Puma brand) or how we roll it out is yet to be decided," he said.
However, analysts questioned whether it would make sense for Puma, which last month paid about $200 million for Neumann Petroleum and Matilda Fuels, to keep five disparate brands under one roof.
Last year Archer Capital boss Peter Gold categorically ruled out, to _WestBusiness _, that the Trafigura-backed Puma would buy Gull.
However, yesterday in a release, he declared he was "delighted" in reaching a deal with Puma, which he said would grow the business.
Mr Taylor declined to comment on reports in London that Trafigura is looking to spin off Puma for Â£3 billion ($4.53 billion), in a bid to return profits to the company's owners - about 700 traders who work for the group. But he said that the group's global reach brought major buying power to its local petrol stations. Archer Capital also owns WA dairy icon Brownes, but has given no indication of a sale date.Another of its major investments is Quick Service Restaurant Holdings, the owner of the Red Rooster, Oporto and Chicken Treat brands.
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