Until now, the network of Robin Oil pumps belonged to entrepreneur Jiří Zoubek. Čepro – in which the Ministry of Finance is a 100% shareholder – acquired 75 gas stations from him, and will have a total of 285.
For how much?
But none of the participants in the deal wants to reveal how much the whole deal cost. “The contracting parties have agreed that – as is customary in these cases – they will not disclose the amount of the transaction, it is a trade secret, the disclosure of which could harm the contracting parties,” said Filip Běhal from the press department of the Ministry of Finance for Blesk. But according to the E15 server, the price is 4.5 billion.
The Department of Finance stated that the acquisition will be financed from the funds of Čepra, not from the state budget. According to the 2022 accounting year, the company had an equity capital of over 10 billion. In the financial statements, Robin Oil reported a profit before taxation of over 103 million crowns. In addition, he had more than 1.5 billion saved in his accounts and is debt-free. Nevertheless, the purchase price listed on the E15 website is many times higher. Everything depends on EBITDA, i.e. profit before taxes, interest and depreciation. The price of 4.5 billion crowns would be forty-five times this indicator, while analysts’ estimates were significantly lower.
Blesk therefore asked about the economic benefit of the purchase. “The acquisition means the expansion of activity and potential in the sector in which Čepro has been successfully operating for a long time. “The distribution and storage of fuel is part of the energy and critical infrastructure of the state, in which Čepro operates as a strategic company.” answered Běhal’s question. “For Čepro, the purchase of Robin Oil means a direct economic effect and a market share that has a specific value,” Čepro CEO Jan Duspeva explained the transaction.
It will also gain more coverage on major routes and highways through the acquisition. “Robin Oil has much larger stores with a high level of catering services that we have been missing until now,” added Duspeva. According to the Department of Finance, the purchase was the decision and responsibility of the company’s board of directors. “Due to its importance, the management of Čepra consulted with the Ministry of Finance as a 100% shareholder,” Běhal added.
Experts: Surprised by the amount
According to Purple Trading analyst Petr Lajsko, the deal makes sense from a business perspective. But he admits that he was surprised by the amount of the transaction. “The question is whether the state should actively develop business activities in an environment where there is high competition. And that at a time when the amount of the budget deficit is constantly being resolved and taxes are being raised,” thinks.
In addition, according to him, the government commits many missteps, for example, as stated by Deputy Prime Minister Víto Rakušan (45, STAN) regarding the possibility of nationalizing ČEZ. “From this point of view, the transaction seems unnecessary, especially at such a high price. I see the benefit for the state as minimal, expanding the network of EuroOil stations by 70 gas stations will not significantly improve the position,” the economist claims that in the case of excessively high fuel prices, Čepro may try to regulate prices, to which the competition would react, but he does not see too much room for maneuver. “I assume that given the size of the transaction, it will need to generate a profit,” he added.
According to Trinity Bank Chief Economist Lukáš Kovanda, the state should not own the network of pumps at all. “He can completely leave the operation of the pumps to the private sector, which will manage it more economically, because it will be motivated by its own profit. The state will not be motivated in this way,” means According to him, the acquisition of gas stations would make sense if the state also owned the refineries. “There is no possibility that the Czech government alone, thanks to the ownership of the pumps, could significantly influence the prices of fuel… Although the pricing of pump operators is important for pricing, it is even more important for refineries. The price of 4.5 billion is therefore disadvantageous for the state, because it will not bring it adequate value and influence.” explains Kovanda.
Economist and member of the Government’s National Economic Council Dominik Stroukal sees it similarly. “The state should not do business, even if it costs one crown, let alone 4.5 billion,” stated
Vít Hradil, chief economist of Cyrrus, agrees with this. “The state is not a good entrepreneur in any field, and its participation in commercial activities is usually rather counterproductive. The only argument for something similar can be the effort to achieve strategic goals in the field of energy security,” he told Blesk.
“However, since gas stations understandably do not produce fuel, but only sell it, it is not clear to me how their ownership can strengthen energy security. The Czech fuel market is highly competitive by European standards, and any risks therefore come from refineries rather than distributors,” he added, adding that he would like the government to better explain the declared strategic context of this step.