Poles eye Baltic gas stations

  • 2007-09-05
  • By Mike Collier

FEELING HAWKISH: PKN Orlen wants at least 10 percent of the Latvian and Lithuanian fuel retail market

KRYNICA 's Poland's two largest fuel retailers are preparing to move into the Baltic retail fuel market.

PKN Orlen and Lotos are both finalising plans to take on the likes of Statoil, Lukoil and Neste at the fuel pumps. Lithuania and Latvia are the primary targets for both, with commitment to the Estonian market less certain.

Speaking at the Polish Economic Forum Sep. 6, PKN Orlen deputy chief executive Wojciech Heydel told the Reuters news agency: "We would like to have at least 10 percent and 15 would be better, of the Lithuanian and Latvian markets. When it comes to Estonia, the decision has not yet been made."

"Most likely we will rebrand the stations Orlen instead of Ventus," Heydel said, adding that he anticipated building up to around 100 stations in both Lithuania and Latvia, where it runs the Ventus and Linava brands. In Poland, Orlen also plans to establish around 900 Bliska fuel stations by 2009.

PKN Orlen has previously signalled a desire to expand northwards from its Polish heartland. In July 2007 it expressed interest in buying Klaipedos Nafta, majority owned by the Lithuanian state, to add to its purchase of Mazeiku Nafta in December 2006. No sale was made, as the Lithuanian government wanted to keep control of its strategically important fuel terminal, but it did serve as a clear indicator of the scale of PKN Orlen's Baltic ambitions.

In a second announcement at Krynica, Grupa Lotos, Poland's second largest oil company, also confirmed that it has serious plans for Baltic expansion.

Chief executive Pawel Olechnowicz told reporters: "In June 2008 we will modify our strategy until 2012. This revision will include strengthening our presence in the Baltic Sea region - both in Scandinavia and the Baltic states."

In contrast to PKN Orlen, Lotos has not yet established a Baltic presence but does operate hundreds of fuel stations throughout Poland. However, Olechnowicz said that the home market was now "saturated."