Speculation is mounting that Macquarie Group interests could be working on a separate bid for all of Caltex after EG Group went alone and made a $3.9bn offer for part of the company.

The speculation comes after Macquarie was recently in talks to buy Exxon Mobil’s downstream energy business jointly with BP Oil and sources have suggested the same part of Macquarie trying to buy this business could also be vying for Caltex.

Sources at Macquarie have not offered any comment on the situation, but there has been speculation it was in talks with EG Group about potentially joining forces for a proposal.

EG Group was said to have been trying to find partners to acquire all of Caltex, advised by UBS, and it appears evident from its partial bid that this has proved a tough ask.

Talks were believed to have occurred with Macquarie to take out the remaining operation, but the understanding is that Macquarie would have only had interest in acquiring assets later down the track, if at all.

Viva Energy has passed up on the opportunity of a joint bid for its listed rival, but the thinking is that talks unfolded between the company and EG Group.

Viva Energy is now understood to be waiting on the sidelines to see if any acquisition opportunities arise for Caltex as the business remains in play.

One possibility being discussed is Viva Energy acquiring the Caltex Lytton refinery in Brisbane, although some in the market believe it is not a bidder for Lytton.

Some in the market were sceptical on Wednesday about the EG Group offer for the Caltex convenience retail chain and the service station real estate sites, saying it was designed to flush out a joint venture partner.

After announcing that part of the business would equate to $15.62 cash for shareholders, it now offers a firm indication for a party interested in the remaining fuel and infrastructure business and its international trading and shipping operations about what it would need to pay.

On the face of it, most see the latest offer as complex and inferior to the Couche-Tard bid, but it may be used by UBS bankers to prompt Couche-Tard to pay a higher price. Its latest $8.8bn offer was only its best and final bid subject to no other competing offer emerging.

Part of the challenge in weighing up the price is that the deal would see renegotiations for the fuel supply agreement.

Jefferies is advising EG Group on the discussions with Caltex, while Citi and Bank of America are the lending banks.

EG Group last year bought Woolworths’ petrol station portfolio for $1.725bn and it will be interesting to see if it faces challenges with the Australian Competition & Consumer Commission.

The Caltex petrol retailing business operates across 880 sites and is estimated by analysts to be worth about $2bn, while the remaining value sits in the portfolio of 476 properties under its ownership that is thought to be worth about $2bn.

Based in Blackburn, EG operates petrol stations and fast food outlets in Europe, the US and Australia.

At the end of 2018, the business reportedly operated 5200 sties, with revenue exceeding €12bn.

Extracted from The Australian