Clerical Error Leads to Merger Statement

Chevron Corp., operator of more than 2,800 Food Mart and ExtraMile convenience stores, said it had handed antitrust regulators a plan to sell While Plains, N.Y-based Texaco Inc.'s U.S. refining business and some other assets as it seeks approval to acquire Texaco, but then withdrew the statement and blamed it on a clerical error.

In a filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), Chevron said it had "executed a consent agreement" to sell the Texaco businesses and handed it to the staff of the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC), Reuters reported.

Chevron pulled the document 53 minutes later, issuing a new version that did not include any reference to the agreement, the report said. In a statement, the oil company said it "erroneously reported in filing ... with the Securities and Exchange Commission, that Chevron and Texaco had signed an agreement for U.S Federal Trade Commission approval connected with the pending merger with Texaco."

Industry analysts quickly said the inadvertent filing signaled that Chevron was on the brink of reaching an agreement with regulators allowing it to complete the takeover of Texaco, creating the world's fifth-largest oil company, the report said. Expectations are that FTC approval could come within two or three weeks, setting the stage for the deal to be completed by October, a year after it was first announced.

"Both of them have expressed confidence that they would close the merger on time," Dave Wheeler, an analyst with Deutsche Banc, told Reuters. "My gut feeling is that they both have confidence that things are going well with FTC."

In the original filing on Thursday, Chevron indicated it would agree to sell Texaco's interest in two refining and marketing joint-ventures, Motiva Enterprises and Equilon Enterprises, if anti-trust regulators would okay the deal. It also said it would divest Texaco's interests in U.S. natural gas processing and transportation facilities and jet fuel marketing business.

Texaco's stakes in refining and marketing joint ventures have long been seen as the sticking point with regulators, increasing concerned about the concentration of the so-called downstream oil business in the United States.

Motiva has four refineries in the Eastern and Gulf Coast regions of the United States and supplies gasoline and other fuels to 13,000 Shell and Texaco retail and wholesale outlets. Royal Dutch/Shell Group owns 30 percent of Motiva while Texaco and Saudi Aramco each own 35 percent.

Equilon has four refineries on the U.S. West Coast and supplies fuel to 9,000 Shell and Texaco outlets. Shell owns 56 percent of the company and Texaco 44 percent.

Negotiations between Shell and Texaco over the business have moved slowly, however, and some experts say the companies are likely to create a trust to hold the assets until an agreement between the parties can be reached.
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