FTC staff expected to OK Mobil's sale to Exxon

Firms are to shed 2,400 gas stations


WASHINGTON -- Antitrust officials at the Federal Trade Commission have notified state officials that they intend to recommend the approval of Exxon's $81 billion acquisition of Mobil next week, state officials said yesterday. The move came after the companies agreed to the largest divestiture in the commission's history.

The centerpiece of the agreement which emerged this week requires the sale of about 2,400 gas stations, about 15 percent of the two companies' retailers around the nation.

In documents that are circulating in the industry, Mobil has said it plans to sell more than 1,200 stations in the mid-Atlantic states and 300 in Texas. Exxon has been taking bids for more than 500 stations in the Northeast and 360 in California.

Among the early bidders is Crown Central Petroleum of Baltimore, industry experts said.

Meanwhile, federal and some state officials have raised serious antitrust questions about a second large oil merger, BP Amoco's proposed $29 billion purchase of Atlantic Richfield, and are threatening to go to court to block that deal.

The states have been notified that the five FTC commissioners are expected to vote on the deal next week. The merger will create the world's biggest company in revenues. Exxon is also preparing to divest itself of a refinery in Benicia, Calif., and the companies are selling substantial interests in a number of U.S. pipelines.

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