TonenGeneral Said to Be in Talks to Purchase Mitsui’s Oil Unit

TonenGeneral Sekiyu K.K., a Japanese oil refiner part-owned by Exxon Mobil Corp., is in talks to buy Mitsui Oil Co. from Mitsui & Co., two people with knowledge of the matter said.

Tokyo-based TonenGeneral is seeking to expand petroleum sales channels by acquiring Mitsui Oil, which operates about 270 gas stations in Japan, said one of the people, who asked not to be identified because the information is private. The Nikkei newspaper earlier today reported the deal will be valued at as much as 50 billion yen ($510 million), without citing anyone.

Japanese oil refiners are under pressure to consolidate as the nation’s demand for petroleum products dwindles. Exxon Mobil last year cut its voting stake in TonenGeneral to 22 percent from 50.5 percent, and Brazil’s Petroleo Brasileiro SA has been considering a sale of its refinery on Japan’s southernmost island of Okinawa.

Mitsui & Co. owns 89.93 percent of Mitsui Oil, according to the Tokyo-based trading company’s website.

TonenGeneral is “actively” seeking partnerships with other companies to strengthen its petroleum-product supply chain in Japan, it said in a statement to the Tokyo Stock Exchange today in response to the Nikkei report, without mentioning talks for Mitsui Oil. Spokesmen for Mitsui & Co. and Mitsui Oil declined to comment.

Mitsui Oil and TonenGeneral together own Kyokuto Petroleum Industries Ltd., which operates the 175,000-barrels-a-day Chiba refinery near Tokyo, according to Mitsui Oil’s website. Mitsui Oil posted profit of 1.6 billion yen on sales of 362 billion yen for the year through March 31.