• The Competition Tribunal has signed off on conditions under which it will allow state-owned Chinese giant Sinopec to buy Chevron South Africa, the owner of Caltex-branded petrol stations.
  • The conditions include who will pay how much for the rebranding of 834 Caltex petrol stations.
  • Caltex is named for the two American states where the company's ancestors started; Sinopec is named for China.

The Competition Tribunal on Friday signed off on what is technically a merger between Chevron South Africa and the China Petroleum and Chemical Corporation. 

The two companies are not well known, but their respective brands are hugely so: Chevron's Caltex petrol stations in South Africa, and the shortened name of China Petroleum, Sinopec, around the world.

Caltex at one point promoted itself using the line "you are never far from the Caltex star". Sinopec is ranked the third largest company in the world by revenue.

Sinopec proudly operates under that brand in China and elsewhere, but has not said what it intends to do in South Africa, where the Caltex white rabbit is a recognisable mascot of a brand first introduced in 1951.

However, Friday's announcement suggests the rabbit will soon be out of a job.

To allay the concerns of a group of independent Caltex partners in South Africa, the competition tribunal said, Sinopec had agreed to pay R290 million for "the rebranding of certain service stations to the Sinopec brand".

That will cover 580 service stations scattered throughout the country.

For another 254 petrol stations Sinopec, will cover a fifth of the cost of rebranding - another R25 million.

Other conditions include that "Sinopec will use reasonable endeavours to promote the export of South African manufactured products for sale in China."

The Caltex brand was created in 1936 and named for the two companies that merged to form it: Standard Oil of California and the Texas Oil Company. Its star is drawn from the Texas symbol.

Sinopec draws the colours in its branding in part from the Chinese flag.

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