Hess Looks to Cash Out of the Gas Station Biz

Hess (HES) filed a registration statement to spin off its gas station/convenience store business, Hess Retail. But interestingly enough, a public offering may not be the ultimate goal, as Hess indicated that it will seek buyout offers for the business. However, Wall Street didn’t seem very excited about the Hess spinoff. HES stock increased by only 1% on the news.

HES-stockThe Hess spinoff should be no surprise. About a year ago, HES announced it was planning to restructure its operations and to focus on exploration and production. The catalyst for the Hess spinoff was a push from activist investor Paul Singer, who manages Elliott Management. His firm took at a 4% stake in HES stock and was quick to agitate for change. In response, HES went on to unload its energy marketing division as well as its terminal system and various offshore assets.

Hess Retail is actually the largest gas station operator on the East Coast (including the Wilco Travel Plaza brand) and is ranked No. 5 for all of the U.S. with 1,258 locations. To boost margins, the company has its own fresh food brand, known as Good to Go. But there are also key relationships with partners like Dunkin’ Brands (DNKN), Wendy’s (WEN), Dairy Queen and Bojangles’.

Yet keep in mind that Hess Retail has been mostly treading water. For the first nine months of last year, revenues fell by 3.5% to $6.53 billion and the profit was only $4.8 million.

If the Hess spinoff results in an IPO, HES stock investors will get one share of Hess Retail for each share of HES stock owned. There will also be no tax implications to the deal. The company plans to issue the stock on the NYSE exchange and the proposed ticker is HRE. There is also no date set for when the offering will hit the market.

And if you’re concerned that the Hess spinoff will affect the Hess toy trucks that sell during Christmas, don’t worry. A legal requirement for the deal is that Hess remains “the exclusive retail distributor of Hess branded toy trucks.”

Tom Taulli runs the InvestorPlace blog IPO Playbook. He is also the author of High-Profit IPO StrategiesAll About Commodities and All About Short Selling. Follow him on Twitter at @ttaulli. As of this writing, he did not hold a position in any of the aforementioned securities.

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