Ampol – formerly known as Caltex – has found a buyer for a $1 billion-odd stake in its petrol station properties.

Now it’s just about finding a deal.

Street Talk understands real estate giant Charter Hall is in exclusive talks with Ampol to pick up the 49 per cent stake in the 250 petrol sites owned and run by the fuel supplier. Both sides are trying to have a deal agreed in the coming month.

It is understood Charter Hall emerged as the preferred bidder after an auction run by UBS which was delayed slightly while Ampol and its bankers had their attention firmly focused on a takeover play by Canada’s Couche-Tard.

When Couche-Tard left the frame in April, Ampol was quick to get the keys back in the sale process ignition.

Charter Hall’s interest in the assets comes as no surprise given the $4.5 billion real estate player has been acquisitive in the petrol station real estate sector in the past 12 months. It was always the most logical buyer.

Charter Hall snapped up $840 million worth of BP fuel and convenience retail properties late last year, a 49 per cent stake in the BP portfolio. It backed that purchase up in February this year when it bought a 10 per cent stake in Waypoint REIT – then known as Viva Energy REIT – for $207 million.

And it’s easy to see why its interest is so strong, particularly in a post-COVID world.

Service stations have been one of the more resilient property assets through the pandemic, compared to retail and office portfolios.

For instance, in a market update on Wednesday, petrol station owner APN Convenience Retail REIT revealed the value of its assets had grown by 5 per cent to $444.6 million. APN owns 73 service station and convenience retail assets around the country.

Meanwhile, other REITs are facing enormous writedown pressure, with the likes of Vicinity Centres chopping $1.8 billion to $2.1 billion off its asset valuations at the end of May.

Charter Hall’s interest in the portfolio will sure to be making one person in particular a very happy camper.

And that’s new Ampol chief executive Matthew Halliday, who started in the role on Monday this week. He joined Ampol in April 2019 as its chief financial officer and was appointed interim CEO on March 2 this year after Julian Segal retired.

Every new CEO wants to get some runs on the board early when they start in the top job and if Charter Hall’s exclusivity turns into a sale, Halliday will have been gifted a boundary off his first ball.

Extracted from AFR