Total To Close 7.7% Of Domestic Petrol Stations

TotalFinaElf, which sells more than a fifth of France's gasoline, said that it will close 7.7 percent of its domestic gas stations and reorganize the rest to combat the rising competition from supermarket chains.

The plan calls for a thousand Elf service stations to be converted to the Total logo, for one hundred and fifty Total stations to change to the Elf brand, and for five hundred closures. The Total brand will have more shops and services, while Elf will offer fewer services and cheaper gas to compete against the supermarkets, the company said.

Supermarkets such as Tesco in Britain and Carrefour in France are stealing markets from oil companies in much of Europe. Total estimates that stores sell fifty seven percent of France's gasoline, more than double its own market share of twenty two percent. Overall, gasoline demand in Europe declined in 2000.

“Oil companies have realized they have to get better utilization of sites, so they are making them into convenience stores,” said Peter Hitchens, an analyst at CAI Cheuvreux. “They have to attract people.”

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