The protracted ­approval for Woolworths’ sale of a petrol station network to BP for $1.8 billion has hit another delay after the competition regulator said it would delay its consideration of the acquisition.

The Australian Competition & Consumer Commission said yesterday it had delayed its decision so it could consider new ­information from Woolworths and BP.

The new decision date is ­December 14.

Woolworths announced it would sell its portfolio of 527 service stations in December last year. But the proposal began to look shaky in August when the ACCC again pushed back a final ruling by flagging a range of preliminary concerns.

“This is a significant decision for the retail petrol market in Australia,” ACCC chairman Rod Sims said yesterday.

“This potential transaction involves complex, extensive data analysis of fuel prices across all fuel sites in Australia over a number of years, and it’s vital we take the time to thoroughly ­assess its likely impact.”

The ACCC launched a public ­review of the proposed acquisition in March. It then released a statement of issues outlining preliminary competition concerns in August.

A key concern for the regulator is that the sale of the Woolworths service stations to BP could substantially reduce competition for the retail supply of fuel across metropolitan areas.

“The transaction would ­reduce the number of major ­rivals in fuel retailing,’’ Mr Sims said in August. “The transaction could see retailers face less competitive pressure to keep their prices low and, as a result, motorists may end up paying more at the pump.’’

Extracted from The Australian.