bp continues us selloff

British oil company to franchise its remaining 700-plus stations.

BP America Inc. said it will sell all of its more than 700 company-owned and -operated U.S. convenience stores over the next two years. The company said most of the sites will be sold to franchise owners, while some will be sold to dealers and large distributors. The sites will continue to sell BP fuels in the eastern United States and Arco fuels in the western U.S., with the store brand now to be known as “ampm” nationwide.

About 95% of BP’s 13,000 U.S. retail sites currently are independently operated. The sale of the 700-plus stores will eliminate 9,500 positions and 350 business support staff. About 100 employees from BP’s pipelines and logistics unit will also be affected, the company said. Plus, the U.S. Convenience Retail office in Naperville, Ill., also will close, according to BusinessWeek.

BP America said the action is linked to the reorganization announced by London-based parent BP PLC last month in which the oil company said it would streamline its structure, shrink the number of business units and trim management in an effort to end a slump. As part of that overhaul, the company is relocating some staff to its U.S. headquarters in Houston, shifting roughly 1,000 employees from the western Chicago suburbs to downtown and laying others off. Specifics of those layoffs had not previously been disclosed.

Fiona MacLeod, president of BP U.S. Convenience Retail, said the company will be able to grow its business by building a strong franchise network of local station owners. “We know that these changes will be very difficult for our employees, and we are putting measures in place to assist affected business support staff, including job placement assistance,” she said. “It’s been our experience that the majority of convenience store employees are retained by the new owners.”

BP said it would support franchisees with a field-based staff and a small head office located in La Palma, Calif.

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