* Caltex, ExxonMobil decide not to proceed with agreed deal
* Says decision due to objection by competition watchdog
* Caltex says to explore growth opportunities
PERTH, April 29 Caltex Australia Ltd (CTX.AX),
the country's largest refiner, said on Thursday it has scrapped
plans to buy ExxonMobil Corp's (XOM.N) 302 service stations in
the country following opposition by the competition watchdog.
Australia's competition watchdog in December blocked
Caltex's A$300 million ($277.8 million) plan to buy Mobil's gas
service stations, saying the deal would reduce competition
across a range of fuel products in Australia.
Caltex said it had discussed with Exxon possible solutions
to ease the regulator's worries, and both parties agreed not to
proceed with the "current proposal".
It is not clear if Caltex has completely abandoned the
acquisition plan, or is looking instead to buy fewer Mobil
service stations. Caltex could not immediately be reached for
"Caltex will continue to explore opportunities to grow its
business," it said in a statement.
Caltex, 50-percent owned by U.S. energy major Chevron Corp
(CVX.N), is growing its fuel marketing business to cut
dependence on the volatile refining business, where margins
have suffered due to a regional supply glut.
Shares in Caltex, which runs two plants accounting for
about a third of Australia's refining capacity, fell 1.5
percent to A$11.58 on Thursday. The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 index
was down 0.8 percent.
($1=1.080 Australian Dollar)
(Reporting by Fayen Wong; Editing by Ed Davies and Koh Gui