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KINGSTON, Jamaica -- At least four companies have been short-listed by Shell Oil to bid for its Jamaican operation, which has been reported to be put up for sale, sources have told the Jamaica Business Observer.

The firms -- Total, Cool Oasis, a consortium of Facey Commodity and IGL, and Neal & Massy -- have been given until the end of this month to make an irrevocable financial offer for the company, according to the sources.

These companies were among nearly a dozen suitors that had initially placed bids for the Shell operation, when the Anglo-Dutch transnational began making overtures to selected local and overseas investors that it was up for sale.

The number of suitors was eventually reduced, with the selected few being invited to conduct private due diligence of Shell to help them shape their final offer.

On Monday, Shell declined to confirm that it was considering a sale of its local operation, and referred reporters to the statement the company released a few weeks ago, when reports of the impending sale first surfaced.

That statement read in part:

"Shell Company has an active global portfolio management program, which includes Latin America (including the Caribbean) and wants to develop the portfolio by identifying those markets of choice, taking action to ensure competitive positions in those markets.

"Jamaica is still a part of the portfolio review. Inevitably, these evaluations cause a wide degree of interest, but for commercial and legal reasons it is our policy not to comment on market rumor or speculation. At this stage, no further decisions have been made for Jamaica and we do not know whether we will be part of the divestment portfolio.

"To date our portfolio reviews have resulted in retention of a number of businesses in Brazil, Central America, Argentina and Chile, together with divestments in
Peru and Venezuela, and development of alliances in the Eastern Caribbean, where SOL Group will continue to use the Shell brand and be the sole distributor of Shell's fuels and lubricants in the region."

With nearly five dozen service stations across the island, Shell has the lion's share of Jamaica's petroleum market.
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