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PAPEÉTE, Tahiti (Tahitipresse. July 12) - Tahiti's Albert Moux & Partners consortium is buying Royal Dutch Shell businesses in French Polynesia, New Caledonia and Vanuatu as the oil giant pulls out of downstream and marketing businesses in six Pacific locations, including Fiji and Tonga, according to Pacific media reports Tuesday.

The Tahiti consortium, "whose principal is Shell's current co-venturer in French Polynesia, Albert Moux," "will continue to use the Shell brand under a Trade Mark License Agreement at selected retail service stations" in French Polynesia, New Caledonia and Vanuatu, Papua New Guinea's The National Online reported.

An official at Shell headquarters in Papeéte declined to make any comment Tuesday afternoon, but said a statement would be forthcoming by Wednesday at the latest.

Shell is one of three oil companies operating in French Polynesia. The other two are Mobil and Total. All three operate service stations throughout the islands and provide aviation fuel for the international and domestic airlines serving Tahiti.

Total France, which is partly owned by the French government, is buying Shell businesses in Fiji and Tonga, while Shell "businesses in the Cook Islands and Solomon Islands will be the subject of a further announcement", according to The National Online.

"The deals relate to Shell's aviation, marine, lubricants, commercial fuels, distribution and retail businesses and include a network of 65 retail service stations and 12 storage and distribution depots," The National Online reported.

Meanwhile, the sale of Shell's downstream business in Papua New Guinea to the Canada-based InterOil Products Ltd. "continues to progress. That sale occurred last year, involving 70 outlets, earning Shell an estimated AU$113.3 million (US$85.3 million), The Australian Online reported. "Shell's assets at the Port Moresby Jackson International Airport are not part of this deal," The National Online reported.

Shell is pulling out of its Pacific islands businesses "as it redirects its Australasian activities to the development of new opportunities in the upstream sector," The Australian reported.

"While Shell intends to maintain its position as the petroleum brand leader in Australia, the Pacific Islands business, which it began more than 80 years ago, no longer fits its objective of operating larger, more efficient business units," The Australian reported.

In Fiji, Shell General Manager Peter Walsh told the Fiji Times that the oil company's sales of its Pacific businesses were subject to government approval and are expected to be completed late this year or early next year.

Shell would not disclose the prices obtained from the sales. "The divestment is consistent with Shell's strategy of managing its portfolio to deliver maximum value to customers and shareholders," the company told The Australian.

"In general, Shell in the Pacific Islands has been operating in a market with good long-term prospects, a loyal customer base, professional staff and reliable business partners," the company said.

Shell's downstream operations are increasingly "being directed out of Singapore, which earlier this decade became the source of supply for the Pacific Islands, after the surplus of refinery capacity in Australia ended, resulting in lack of Australian product to export," The Australian reported.

July 13, 2006

Tahitipresse: www.tahitipresse.pf

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