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Vitol Unit Acquires Total’s Swiss Storage, Distribution Assets

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July 24 (Bloomberg) -- Varo Energy, a venture of oil trader Vitol Group and private equity firm Carlyle Group LP, is buying storage and distribution assets from Total SA’s Swiss unit to add resources in the land-locked Alpine country.

The transaction includes tank-storage facilities in Eclepens near Lausanne and Total’s distribution and sales network for domestic heating oil and diesel in Switzerland, Varo said in a statement. The deal is scheduled to close later this year, the company said, without disclosing financial details.

Swiss commodity trading houses including Vitol, the world’s largest independent oil trader, are investing in refineries, storage tanks and pipelines to wring more profit from their trading operations amid a squeeze on margins due to lower oil price volatility and increased competition.

The acquisition will give Varo the ability to deliver directly to Swiss consumers including products “coming straight from our refineries,” Andreas Fluetsch, Varo Energy’s managing director, said in the e-mailed statement.

Varo owns stakes in refineries, storage tanks and pipelines in Germany, Austria and Switzerland including the Cressier refinery in Neuchatel and is aiming to become a significant new player in oil refining and storage in northwest Europe. Major oil companies such as Total of France are selling more than $300 billion of assets, Marcel van Poecke, Managing Director of Carlyle International Energy Partners, said in April.

Van Poecke was a founder of the refinery firm Petroplus Holdings AG, leaving it in 2006. Petroplus went into bankruptcy in 2012. The Cressier refinery was among five Petroplus facilities that were sold, converted or closed.

Gunvor Group, a smaller competitor to Vitol with major trading operations in Geneva, bought two former Petroplus refineries located in Ingolstadt, Germany and Antwerp, Belgium in 2012.

Vitol teamed with sovereign wealth fund Abu Dhabi Investment Council to offer $2.6 billion to buy Royal Dutch Shell Plc’s refining and fuel station assets in Australia in February.

To contact the reporter on this story: Andy Hoffman in Geneva at ahoffman31@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Timothy Coulter at tcoulter@bloomberg.net Indranil Ghosh, Alex Devine

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