UPDATE 1-Imperial Oil begins to accept proposals for Esso stations -sources

Fri May 15, 2015 6:03pm EDT
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(Adds company comment, paragraphs 7-8)

By John Tilak, Euan Rocha and Scott Haggett

TORONTO/CALGARY May 15 (Reuters) - Imperial Oil Ltd , Canada's No. 2 integrated oil producer and refiner, is accepting proposals from interested bidders for 500 of its remaining company-owned Esso retail sites, according to four sources familiar with the process.

Estimates for the value of the stations have varied widely but could be worth more than C$1 billion ($831 million).

In January Imperial said it was evaluating selling the stations but on Friday said no decision had been made.

Some 1,200 of Imperial's 1,700 Esso-branded sites operate under a wholesaler model, where the stations are owned by other parties but retain the Esso brand and are supplied by Imperial, which is majority-owned by Exxon Mobil Corp.

Parties interested in the assets include Parkland Fuel Corp , Alimentation Couche-Tard Inc and CST Brands Inc, said the sources, who asked not to be named as they have not been cleared to discuss the matter publicly.

All three companies, some of the largest gas station operators in Canada, already operate Esso-branded stations in the country.

Local real estate developers, along with some private equity buyers, are also showing interest in the gas stations, said two of the sources.   Continued...