February 22, 2017 / 2:09 PM / 8 months ago

Saudi Aramco in lead to buy OMV's Turkish unit Petrol Ofisi - sources

* Saudi Aramco has tabled bid for Petrol Ofisi - source

* Azerbaijan’s SOCAR has also submitted a bid - sources

* OMV expects to sell Petrol Ofisi this year

By Reem Shamseddine and Ron Bousso

KHOBAR, Saudi Arabia/LONDON Feb 22 (Reuters) - Oil giant Saudi Aramco is believed to be the front-runner to buy Turkish fuel stations business Petrol Ofisi from Austrian oil group OMV , sources familiar with the matter said.

Saudi Aramco has placed a bid and is awaiting the result, said one source who declined to be identified because the matter is not public.

An OMV spokesman said the firm had received binding offers for Petrol Ofisi, which generated sales of around 10 billion euros ($10.5 billion) in 2015, but declined to give details.

A Saudi Aramco spokesman said the company did not comment on rumour or speculation.

Other sources aware of the matter said State Oil Company of Azerbaijan (SOCAR) had also placed a bid.

For SOCAR, owning a large number of petrol stations in Turkey would offer a natural outlet for the Star refinery it is building in Turkey and hoping to complete next year. Last October, SOCAR acquired OMV’s Aliaga storage terminal in Turkey.

SOCAR was not immediately available for comment.

OMV said this month it expected to conclude the sale of Petrol Ofisi in 2017.

“It is a secure long-term outlet for refined products in a market adjacent to Aramco’s operations,” said Sadad al-Husseini, a former senior executive at Saudi Aramco.

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan visited Saudi Arabia on Feb. 14 and met King Salman. His big delegation included energy minister Berat Albayrak.

Saudi Aramco plans to raise refining capacity to 8-10 million barrels per day (bpd) from around 5.4 million now, to be closer to its key markets and expand its global refining footprint.

OMV said last year it was putting its Turkish arm up for sale as part of a drive to focus on its upstream oil and gas production businesses, as well as its integrated downstream refining, sales and distribution operations.

Turkey has some of the highest fuel prices in Europe but taxes and other regulations leave little margin for profit for the 70 different retailers.

According to the latest data from Turkish energy watchdog EPDK, Petrol Ofisi sold 530,206 tonnes of gasoline, diesel, fuel oil, jet fuel and other fuel in November in Turkey, and had a market share of 22.7 percent.

In 2015, it was market leader with a 24 percent share, selling 5.95 million tonnes of fuel.

Petrol Ofisi has nearly 2,000 petrol stations, one mineral oil factory, 11 fuel and three liquid petroleum gas (LPG) terminals and more than 1.17 million cubic meters of storage capacity, according to its website.

$1 = 0.9511 euros Additional reporting by Shadia Nasrallah and Humeyra Pamuk; Editing by Mark Potter

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