Investors from Saint Petersburg are buying Pap Oil petrol stations. Leading fuel distributors in the Czech Republic may have a new competitor.

Following the recent purchase of forty JET petrol stations by Russian giant Lukoil, another investor from the east is heading for the Czech market. The target is the network of 140 petrol stations operated by Pap Oil.

A buyer from Russia
According to HN information, the buyer is the Russian investment, agricultural and petrochemical group Phaeton, based in Saint Petersburg, whose representatives are even holding talks with some local distributors on a possible purchase of part of Pap Oil stations.

Several independent sources from the petrochemical industry confirmed the information for Hospodářské noviny. “They have spoken to several local petrol station operators. The new owner apparently wants to resell part of the stations immediately,” one of the sources said on condition of anonymity. “If Phaeton keeps some 80 of the Pap Oil stations, sells the rest and acquires several new, modern stations, it may become a serious competitor to the other chains,” said another of the experts who have information on the way the Russian investor is proceeding.

Pap Oil CEO and former director of the fuel chain Benzina, Frederik Emich and head of Pap Oil commercial department Lukáš Kopecký were not available for comment at the end of last week. But they have refused to provide any comments on a possible sale in the past.

Phaeton subsidiary Phaeton Aero operates 50 petrol stations in the Saint Petersburg area. The group is also involved in property development, engineering, agriculture and medical technology.

The Russians have won a tender to buy 140 Pap Oil petrol stations, with the contract to be signed within the next few months, according to HN information. The ownership of the Pap Oil fuel chain is unclear at present.

There are exclusively Czech representatives in the statutory bodies of the London-based Belgard Holding. One of the people involved in the beginning of Pap Oil operation was Milan Vomela, an entrepreneur linked to the company Bena that is being investigated in connection with a CZK 3 billion fraud attempt against the state-run oil company Čepro.

Exorbitant price?
At the moment, one can only speculate about the purchase price. The Russian investors have an enormous interest in reinforcing their influence in the Czech petrochemical sector. And in connection with this, there are speculations that they are willing to pay a lot for the local petrol stations.

In February of this year, when more information on Pap Oil sale emerged, a sum of as much as CZK 4 billion was mentioned.

However, people from the petrochemical industry regarded such an amount of money as somewhat exaggerated given the unclear ownership structure and the condition of some of the petrol stations.

Shell is among the companies that Pap Oil’s new owner has contacted regarding the sale of part of the network, according to HN information.

“We are constantly searching for opportunities to extend our network but will not comment on these issues,” said Petr Šindler, spokesman for Shell Czech unit.

Benzina is not communicative either. But its CEO Martin Durčák suggested last week that Benzina, the largest fuel retailer in the Czech Republic with 333 petrol stations, no longer counts on private Czech companies like Pap Oil and Robin Oil within its planned acquisitions.

“We would rather be interested in Čepro stations if they were privatised sometime in the future,” said Durčák.