FTC raises concerns about Marathon acquisition in New York

Marathon has agreed to divest its assets in five retail stores in New York State after the Federal Trade Commission raised concerns Marathon’s recent acquisition of about 78 Express Mart stores would harm competition in a handful of markets.

Marathon is the parent company of Speedway, a convenience store chain headquartered in Enon. The News-Sun reported earlier this year that Marathon acquired 78 stores held by Petr-All Petroleum Consulting Corporation under the Express Mart brand. The company plans to convert the stores to the Speedway brand. Speedway is the second largest company-owned convenience store chain in the U.S.

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The convenience store chain is also one of the area’s largest employers. Statewide, Speedway employs about 1,090 full-time workers, excluding retail store and field support employees, according to documents recently provided to the Clark County commissioners.

According to the Federal Trade Commission’s complaint, the acquisition would harm competition for both retail gasoline and retail diesel in five local markets in New York State: Farmington, Fayetteville, Johnson City, Rochester, and Whitney Point. Express Mart is a Syracuse, N.Y.-based operator of convenience stores.

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“In three of the five retail diesel markets, the proposed acquisition would result in a merger to monopoly,” the FTC said in a news release. “In the fourth, the proposed acquisition would reduce the number of significant competitors from three to two. In the fifth, the proposed acquisition would reduce the number of significant competitors from four to three.”

The FTC’s complaint alleged the acquisition in those markets would reduce competition for retail gas and diesel sales in those five markets.

“Speedway is complying with the FTC’s findings,” said Stefanie Griffith, a Marathon spokeswoman.

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“The acquisition would increase the likelihood that Marathon could unilaterally raise prices in each of the five local markets, and also would enhance the incentives for interdependent behavior in all five local markets,” the FTC said in its release.

Marathon would be required to divest its retail fuel assets to Sunoco in those markets within 90 days after the acquisition of the Express Mart stores is complete under the terms of a proposed consent order. Marathon and Express Mart would also be required to maintain competitiveness during the divestiture process, according to the FTC. The federal agency said it worked closely with the New York State Attorney General’s office on the issue.

READ MORE: Marathon, parent company of Speedway, to buy Andeavor

The agreement will be subject to public comment through Nov. 26, after which the Commission will decide whether to make the proposed consent order final.

Speedway’s footprint along the East Coast has boomed over the past few years. The retail chain operated about 1,500 stores, mostly in the Midwest, just a few years ago. But in 2015, Speedway’s $2.8 billion acquisition of Hess nearly doubled the size of the chain, adding hundreds of locations along the East Coast and South.

Marathon also recently finalized a $23.3 billion acquisition of Andeavor, a rival refining company based in Texas, adding an estimated 1,100 convenience store outlets to the Speedway’s portfolio.

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