MULTINATIONAL PETROLEUM company Shell yesterday announced the sale of its 56 service stations in Jamaica to Cool Petroleum Holdings Limited, which is jointly owned by the Joe Issa-led Cool Corp. Limited and Trinidad-based Neal & Massy Industrial Gas Holdings Limited.
Under the agreement, to be completed by year-end, Cool Petroleum Holdings will purchase Shell’s retail, commercial fuel, lubricants, liquefied petroleum gas and chemicals businesses, and the main distribution depot at Rockfort in Kingston, the company disclosed in a press statement yesterday.
“The Shell brand stays in Jamaica. We have got a long-term agreement to keep the Shell brand on our service stations in Jamaica,” Roger Bryan, Shell’s country chairman for Jamaica, told The Gleaner.
Project Manager Lauran Wetemans explained that the Dutch oil company was not totally withdrawing from Jamaica.
“Shell is basically changing its business model … and we will continue to supply products to the Jamaican market,” he explained.
Commenting on the purchase, Cool Corp. Chairman Joe Issa noted that “as a Jamaican, I am proud to be part of an increasing ownership in our own country, which is an integral part of the CSME (CARICOM Single Market and Economy). It is our goal to expand this business, which we all recognise is ‘best of brand’, and we are excited at the opportunity before us. We are pleased to have as our partners, the Neal & Massy Group.”
Added Bernard Dulal-Whiteway, chief executive officer of Neal & Massy Holdings: “In accordance with the principles and goals of the CSME, the Neal & Massy Group is happy to continue investing in the single market. This acquisition is in keeping with our vision to be a major pan-Caribbean enterprise and aligns us with a creative and entrepreneurial partner in Jamaica, the largest market in the CSME.”
Yesterday’s announcement of the sale agreement ends months of anxiety over the fate of Shell’s 122 local administrative staffers by the National Workers’ Union (NWU), which represents supervisory and clerical employees at the company.
Danny Roberts, vice-president of the NWU, reacted cooly to news of the sale, noting that he became aware through the media.
He added, however, that a workers’ meeting would be held at noon today to discuss the issue.
“The question of how it will affect the contract of employees has to be discussed. The question of redundancy payment may not arise now for Shell, but the new owner may decide to lay off staff,” noted Roberts.
But Shell’s country chairman said he did not anticipate any “substantial changes” to the staff numbers. “In fact, we may even see an increase in staff complement because a lot of services that were done overseas will now have to be done in Jamaica,” Bryan said.
The Cool Group of Companies was founded 10 years ago and has more than 400 employees with annual sales of US$100 million. The Neal & Massy Group is a conglomerate operating in most of the English-speaking Caribbean. It has a staff complement of 4,000 with more than US$600 million in sales.