Sinopec Said to Pick Goldman Sachs for $30 Billion Unit Sale

China Petroleum & Chemical Corp., Asia’s largest refiner, is working with Goldman Sachs Group Inc. on the sale of a stake in its retail assets, according to people with knowledge of the matter.

The Beijing-based company known as Sinopec could raise as much as $30 billion selling a 30 percent stake in its retail unit, which includes the nation’s biggest network of fuel stations, said two of the people, who asked not to be identified because the information is private.

A deal of that size would be the biggest asset sale by a Chinese state-owned company, data compiled by Bloomberg show. China International Capital Corp. is also advising Sinopec on asset restructuring across the group, two people said.

Sinopec is selling assets after Premier Li Keqiang pledged to allow non-state capital in oil and power projects and speed up development of mixed-ownership entities. Some of China’s largest energy companies including Sinopec and PetroChina Co. earn less on investments or have lower stock market returns than their Western peers.

A Beijing-based press officer at Sinopec wasn’t immediately available for comment. Eddie Naylor, a spokesman at Goldman Sachs in Hong Kong, and Sherry Tan, a Beijing-based spokeswoman for CICC, declined to comment.

Returns Trail

State-owned Sinopec approved a plan in February to seek private investors for its retail business. The company has more than 30,000 fuel stations, according to its annual report.

Shares of Sinopec rose 0.1 percent to HK$6.97 as of 11:27 a.m. in Hong Kong. They have climbed 21 percent from their low this year on Jan. 9.

PetroChina earned 7.7 percent on invested capital last year, while Sinopec returned 8.3 percent, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. By comparison, Exxon Mobil Corp. returned 13 percent and Chevron Corp. made 10 percent.

Rising refining costs, weaker income from oil and gas production and still-lofty capital spending may lower Sinopec’s return ratio while raising its net debt level this year, Hong Kong-based Barclays Plc analysts including Somshankar Sinha wrote in a report last month.

China Petrochemical Corp., Sinopec’s parent company, raised $5 billion yesterday from the biggest offering of dollar-denominated notes by an Asian issuer in more than a decade. Goldman Sachs was among banks that arranged the bond sale.

The New York-based investment bank was sole manager of Sinopec’s $3.1 billion share offering in Hong Kong last year, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. In other recent sell-side roles in Asia, Goldman Sachs advised Hong Kong’s Wing Hang Bank Ltd. on its $5 billion sale to Oversea-Chinese Banking Corp. of Singapore, and worked on billionaire Li Ka-shing’s sale of a stake in retailer A.S. Watson & Co. to Temasek Holdings Pte.

Sinopec’s retail business is a “huge gold mine” whose full potential “hasn’t been tapped,” Chairman Fu Chengyu said on a conference call with analysts last month. The company will start to invite outside investors for the unit by the end of June, after completing an internal restructuring of the operations in March, Fu said.

(Updates with Sinopec share price in seventh paragraph.)
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