Philippines’ Petron provoking Petronas

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Petron pumpPetron Corporation, the largest oil refiner and petrol pump operator in the Philippines, is teasing Malaysia’s oil giant Petronas with a confusable rebranding of Malaysian gas stations it acquired from ExxonMobil in 2012.

Petron has been rebranding around 580 gas stations nationwide from Esso/Mobil to Petron starting January 2013, which made it the second largest gas retailer in the country. It plans to rebrand 120 more stations by the end of the year.

“I wonder how many people are confused by how similiar Petron and Petronas sounds – perhaps some who are unaware of who Petron is might even think Petronas changed its name to Petron,” a taxi driver in Kuala Lumpur told Inside Investor recently when filling his cab at one of the new Petron stations on a ride through the capital.

To underline its presence, Petron has now kicked off a huge image campaign all over the country under the slogans “Introducing Petron Corporation of the Philippines. Now in Malaysia” and “Fuel for Everyone”. It has also started an aggressive customer loyalty programme and introduced incentives for customers to boost business.

Taking a look behind the curtains of Petron’s aggressive roll-out in Malaysia, some actions become clearer.

Petron Corporation is majority owned by Philippine industry conglomerate San Miguel Corporation, which currently holds 68.26 per cent. The rest is owned by British investment group Ashmore and the public. Petron bought 65 per cent of Esso Malaysia Berhad, 100 per cent of ExxonMobil Malaysia Sdn Bhd and 100 per cent ExxonMobil Borneo Sdn Bhd for a total of $577.3 million in April 2012.

However, there have been reports that the Malaysian operations of Petron are controlled by cronies of the ruling Barisan Nasional coalition, namely Mirzan Mahathir, one of former prime minister Mahathir Mohamad’s sons. The criticism was brought up by the People’s Justice Party of Malaysia (PKR), an opposition party promoting an agenda with a strong social justice and anti-corruption emphasis, that now calls to boycott Petron gas stations.

The PKR also alleged that Petron has inked a politically influenced deal with Malaysia Airlines to exclusively supply its Airbus A380 fleet for six months.

Mirzan Mahathir, who is in fact member of the board of directors of San Miguel Corporation — a brewery company that grew to its present size mainly through the self-serving support of the Philippines’ former quasi-dictator Ferdinand Marcos — admitted in a statement in February 2013 that he is holding 1,000 shares in Petron Corporation “because I sit on the board,” but added he has “no shares or interest whatsoever” in Petron Malaysia.

In any case, Mirzan Mahathir shares the board seats with Chairman of the Board and CEO of Petron Corporation, Ramon Ang, who is also CEO of Petron Malaysia, as well as Vice Chairman of San Miguel Corporation.

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Reading Time: 2 minutes

Petron Corporation, the largest oil refiner and petrol pump operator in the Philippines, is teasing Malaysia’s oil giant Petronas with a confusable rebranding of Malaysian gas stations it acquired from ExxonMobil in 2012.

Reading Time: 2 minutes

Petron pumpPetron Corporation, the largest oil refiner and petrol pump operator in the Philippines, is teasing Malaysia’s oil giant Petronas with a confusable rebranding of Malaysian gas stations it acquired from ExxonMobil in 2012.

Petron has been rebranding around 580 gas stations nationwide from Esso/Mobil to Petron starting January 2013, which made it the second largest gas retailer in the country. It plans to rebrand 120 more stations by the end of the year.

“I wonder how many people are confused by how similiar Petron and Petronas sounds – perhaps some who are unaware of who Petron is might even think Petronas changed its name to Petron,” a taxi driver in Kuala Lumpur told Inside Investor recently when filling his cab at one of the new Petron stations on a ride through the capital.

To underline its presence, Petron has now kicked off a huge image campaign all over the country under the slogans “Introducing Petron Corporation of the Philippines. Now in Malaysia” and “Fuel for Everyone”. It has also started an aggressive customer loyalty programme and introduced incentives for customers to boost business.

Taking a look behind the curtains of Petron’s aggressive roll-out in Malaysia, some actions become clearer.

Petron Corporation is majority owned by Philippine industry conglomerate San Miguel Corporation, which currently holds 68.26 per cent. The rest is owned by British investment group Ashmore and the public. Petron bought 65 per cent of Esso Malaysia Berhad, 100 per cent of ExxonMobil Malaysia Sdn Bhd and 100 per cent ExxonMobil Borneo Sdn Bhd for a total of $577.3 million in April 2012.

However, there have been reports that the Malaysian operations of Petron are controlled by cronies of the ruling Barisan Nasional coalition, namely Mirzan Mahathir, one of former prime minister Mahathir Mohamad’s sons. The criticism was brought up by the People’s Justice Party of Malaysia (PKR), an opposition party promoting an agenda with a strong social justice and anti-corruption emphasis, that now calls to boycott Petron gas stations.

The PKR also alleged that Petron has inked a politically influenced deal with Malaysia Airlines to exclusively supply its Airbus A380 fleet for six months.

Mirzan Mahathir, who is in fact member of the board of directors of San Miguel Corporation — a brewery company that grew to its present size mainly through the self-serving support of the Philippines’ former quasi-dictator Ferdinand Marcos — admitted in a statement in February 2013 that he is holding 1,000 shares in Petron Corporation “because I sit on the board,” but added he has “no shares or interest whatsoever” in Petron Malaysia.

In any case, Mirzan Mahathir shares the board seats with Chairman of the Board and CEO of Petron Corporation, Ramon Ang, who is also CEO of Petron Malaysia, as well as Vice Chairman of San Miguel Corporation.

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