Exclusive: Energy Transfer has held talks to sell Sunoco - sources

Fri Mar 11, 2016 11:25pm EST
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By Mike Stone

(Reuters) - Energy Transfer Equity LP (ETE.N: Quote), the U.S. pipeline company that agreed to acquire Williams Companies Inc (WMB.N: Quote), has held talks to sell gas station and convenience store operator Sunoco LP (SUN.N: Quote), according to three people familiar with the matter.

While these discussions were preliminary, they underscore Energy Transfer's efforts to bolster its balance sheet after a plunge in oil prices made its pending acquisition of Williams more financially burdensome than it previously envisioned.

Energy Transfer held conversations to sell Sunoco earlier this year after it was approached by at least one interested company, the sources said this week, who asked not to be identified because the deliberations were confidential.

Energy Transfer and Sunoco did not respond to requests for comment.

The potential sale would have involved Energy Transfer's ownership of the general partnership of Sunoco, which could be valued at more than $2 billion, the people said.

A 36.4 percent stake in the limited partnership in Sunoco owned by Energy Transfer Partner LP (ETP.N: Quote), a master limited partnership, would also have been divested, the people added. Sunoco has a market capitalization of $3.3 billion.

The discussions about a sale never advanced because of disagreements over Sunoco's valuation, the people said, cautioning that Energy Transfer may choose to revisit the potential divestment if it receives new interest.

Sunoco operates about 900 convenience stores and fuel outlets in eight U.S. states, offering merchandise, food service and motor fuel. It also distributed about 7.6 billion gallons of motor fuel across the United States in 2015.   Continued...

A Sunoco station gasoline pump is seen during a fill up in Colesville, Maryland in this February 10, 2015 file photo. REUTERS/Gary Cameron/Files