Real estate fund manager Charter Hall Group has joined the race to bid for an initial possible sale and leaseback of up to 25% of Caltex Australia’s AUD2bn (€1.25bn) fuel service stations portfolio.

Oil giant Caltex has completed a 12-month strategic review of the property holdings of its Australian arm, and is now seeking to partner with a property group to optimise the value of these assets.

IPE Real Assets understands that discussions between Caltex and Charter Hall are at a more advanced stage than with the other parties, which include Singapore’s GIC and Dexus.

Other potential bidders for a partnership include APN, which used to run an unlisted storage trust, and Hong Kong’s Cheung Kong Holdings.

A source told IPE Real Assets that the portfolio is attractive to Charter Hall because the service stations and convenience stores, will be leased back to Caltex after the transaction.

There are at least 700 Caltex service stations, many with a convenience store, around Australia. 

At the company’s results briefing this week, Caltex managing director and CEO, Julian Segal, said: “Caltex is exploring with appropriately-experienced partners a potential strategic real estate partnership that leverages our retail real estate assets and the partner’s ownership, management and development capabilities.

“These discussions include consideration of the sale of a material part (15-25%) of the existing freehold site portfolio - currently estimated to have a total value of approximately $2bn.”

Segal said Caltex would look at an initial possible sale and leaseback of an AUD300-AUD500m portfolio of retail sites into partnership with an experienced retail property investor.

Caltex would retain between 25-50% equity interest in the portfolio.

Caltex expects to complete the transaction early next year.