HOUSTON - Exxon Mobil Corp. said yesterday that it is leaving the retail gasoline business, following other major oil companies who've been selling their low-margin stations to gasoline distributors.
Motorists, however, will continue to see Exxon's Tiger-themed stations and Mobil outlets. Already, about 75 percent of Exxon Mobil's roughly 12,000 US stations are owned by branded distributors, who buy Exxon Mobil products and pay to use the name.
The world's biggest publicly traded oil company said it now plans to sell to distributors its remaining 820 company-owned stations and another 1,400 outlets operated by dealers. Exxon Mobil didn't disclose financial details but said the sales will take place over a "multiyear period."
Exxon Mobil is not alone among Big Oil exiting the retail gas business, a market where profits have gotten tougher as crude oil prices have risen. In fact, industry officials say the major oil companies own fewer than 5 percent of US gas stations.
Gas prices reached another record at the pump yesterday, rising to a national average of $4.06 a gallon. Still, station owners say they're struggling to turn a profit on gas because they've been unable to raise pump prices fast enough to keep pace with sharply rising wholesale costs.
Exxon Mobil shares fell $1.55, or 1.8 percent, to close at $87.06 yesterday.