Malaysian state-owned energy firm Petroliam Nasional, commonly known as Petronas, has revived talks to sell its controlling stake in Engen, South Africa’s largest fuel station chain. Interested buyers reportedly include Singapore-based commodity major Trafigura and Dutch energy and commodity trader Vitol. Bloomberg says the sale could fetch as much as US$2bn.
Petronas bought a 30% share in Engen in 1996 and then acquired the remaining shares in 1998, making it a wholly owned subsidiary until a year later when South African investment company Phembani bought 20%. In 2017, Phembani increased its stake to 26%. According to international media, at the time Petronas acquired its first shares in Engen, it was to strengthen the company’s position in Africa.
This is not the first time Petronas’ Engen shareholding appears to be in the market. In 2013, the Malaysian group confirmed it was in preliminary talks to sell a stake. Subsequent news reports identified the potential buyer as South Africa's state-owned oil and gas company PetroSA but the deal was called off in 2015. In 2019, there were also rumours of an initial public offering on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange, which failed to materialise.
Engen has over 1,000 service stations in South Africa, with a further footprint of over 230 outlets in countries such as Botswana, the Democratic Republic of Congo, eSwatini, Lesotho, Mauritius and Namibia.
The recent discussions have not been confirmed by the Malaysian energy giant, nor the reported buyers, but would be in line with Petronas’ global strategy to regularly examine its portfolio and determine candidates for growth or divestment as outlined in its 2021 integrated report.
Petronas has multiple operations and interests in 29 African countries. It has downstream petrochemical refining, retail and other marketing and trading activities in 24 of those, such as Botswana, Ghana, Libya, Namibia, South Africa and Morocco. It further participates in upstream exploration, development and production of traditional hydrocarbon fuels in nine African states – including Angola, Gabon, Mauritania and South Sudan – but is only involved in gas and new energy exploration, a key focus area for the future, in Egypt.
In December 2021, Petronas announced it had signed an agreement with Savannah Energy for the sale of its entire shareholding in its subsidiary in Chad, Petronas Carigali Chad Exploration & Production Inc.
‘Malaysia’s state oil company is going global’, New York Times, 22 August 1996
‘Petronas in talks to sell Engen stake’, IOL, 18 July 2013
‘Petronas calls off deal with PetroSA’, The Star, 14 January 2015
‘Phembani increases its stake in Engen Limited’, Phembani, 27 February 2017
‘Petronas and SA partners to launch Engen IPO in 2020’, Business Day, 01 October 2019
‘Petronas is eyeing potential exit for African fuel retailer Engen’, Bloomberg, 23 June 2021
‘Petronas inks agreement with Savannah Energy to sell business interest in Chad’, Petronas, 14 December 2021
‘Petronas’ $2 billion Engen sale draws interest from Trafigura, Vitol’, Bloomberg.com, 26 August 2022
‘Petronas integrated report 2021’, Petronas, Accessed 19 September 2022
‘About Engen’, Engen, Accessed 19 September 2022