OMV efficiency ambition may enforce closures

OMV AG may shut dozens of petrol stations in Austria and Germany.

Company chief Gerhard Roiss explained yesterday (Weds) the firm’s new efficiency programme should help save 700 million Euros by 2014. Roiss also said OMV would invest 2.4 billion Euros into its various fields of operation in the coming 10 years altogether.

Roiss – who presented the oil and gas company’s 10-year strategy yesterday – refused to rule out the closure of service stations in Austria and neighbouring Germany as part of the firm’s cost-cutting regime. Reports have it that dozens of OMV and Avanti stations may shut in the coming years.

OMV dominates the domestic petrol station market alongside BP and Shell. It runs stations which only provide paying via bank or credit card at machines as well as upmarket locations with shops where cold and hot drinks, snacks, magazines and newspapers are on sale. Many Viva stores also feature cash machines allowing customers of Erste Bank Group AG (Erste Bank) to make transactions and everyone owning a valid bank card to withdraw money.

Only in April, Roiss said OMV planned to expand its low-cost Avanti station range. The Viennese company acquired Avanti in 2003. Overall, OMV manages more than 2,300 petrol stations in Austria, Germany and nine other countries. “There is no closure plan,” Roiss stressed today as rumours that loss-making facilities would be closed down shortly keep spiralling.

Speaking about other activity areas of the company which is one of Austria’s strongest brands in the world, the OMV boss revealed his ambition to rake in up to one billion Euros by selling its Refinery & Marketing department. Roiss – who succeeded Wolfgang Ruttenstorfer as head of OMV last April – said OMV was already contacted by firms interested in acquiring its defunct refinery in Pitesti, Romania.

OMV is the main stakeholder of Romanian oil and gas provider Petrom. It also holds a majority interest in Turkish petrol station chain Petrol Ofisi. Roiss praised Turkey for playing a “key role” in future issues considering the provision of Europe with oil and gas. Stressing that around half of the world’s oil and gas reserves are located in the Caspian region and the Middle East, the OMV CEO claimed the Eurasian country would become an important “energy bridge”.

OMV has more than 31,000 employees. The Republic of Austria’s Federal Industry-Holding Stock Corporation, ÖIAG, has a 31.5 per cent interest in the enterprise which was renamed from ÖMV to OMV in 1995.

News that the firm will try to achieve an increase of earnings and capital by working more efficiently in the coming years follow Werner Auli’s decision to leave the company’s executive board by the end of 2011. Auli cited health reasons for his “difficult decision”, adding that OMV played an important part in the past 25 years of his life. “Nevertheless, I opted in favour of my family,” the outgoing head of OMV’s Gas & Power branch said on Monday.

Auli added he would remain responsible for a consortium controlling the progress of the Nabucco gas pipeline project despite its “complexity” and the “many and intense negotiations”. Nabucco is supposed to supply Europe with gas from the Caspian Sea. The project suffered several setbacks over the years due to economic and political issues. While some media claim it may be scrapped, executive managers said it was on track with a delay. The pipeline’s construction has been postponed to 2013.