Although we still have “Shell” branded servos, in fact they’re not owned by Shell. They were all sold to Vitol (a large, privately-owned Dutch-based trading company) several years back, along with the Geelong refinery. There appear to be moves afoot to list the business (now known as Viva Energy) on the ASX.
However, many servos are managed by Wesfarmers/Coles as “Coles Express”. I don’t know how the deal works, but it seems that somewhere along the line, Wesfarmers/Coles are exposed to the price of fuel and at present are being hit by the price of fuel supplied to them by Viva Energy.
In fact, in the quarter to March 2018, Wesfarmers stated that, “Total Coles Express sales, including fuel, for the quarter were $1.3 billion, a decrease of 8.0 per cent on the prior corresponding period, driven by lower fuel volumes”. In fact, it was stated that, “For the quarter, headline fuel volumes decreased 14.6 per cent and comparable fuel volumes decreased 15.9 per cent”.
“Coles Express’ earnings decreased due to changes in the commercial terms of its fuel supply arrangement”.
Put another way, seemingly Viva Energy are giving Wesfarmers/Coles a hard time on fuel prices. For the average driver, its shows. Most of us have observed that Coles Express prices are the slowest to move when the pricing cycle for petrol is in the falling stages.
But now it seems also to manifest itself in another way as well: buying petrol at a Coles Express servo recently, at about half the pumps, there was no hose for 91 octane unleaded. The hoses at the pumps concerned were all dedicated to diesel and “premium” products (including premium diesel). On the assumption that 91 octave unleaded is the most price-competitive product, and perhaps the least profitable, is it just me, or do I detect a desire to forego volume in the interests of profit. Perhaps more sinisterly, the result may also be that motorists unable to shift their vehicle to another pump may have no alternative but to buy a premium product which their vehicle doesn’t need.
EDIT: The graphs here confirm that, in 2017, Coles Express had, on average, the highest prices.