Rosneft attacked independent gas stations with the support of the FAS

The Federal Antimonopoly Service initiates inspections of independent gas stations for a monopoly position in the market.
Rosneft offered to check the gas stations - they are confident in the state-owned companies that independent retail was to blame for problems in the fuel market, not vertically integrated companies (VIINK) who concluded an agreement on stabilizing gasoline prices with the government on November 1. Participants in the retail market in response, warned that the pressure on independent networks will lead to massive bankruptcy of gas stations and problems with fuel in some regions.

According to Kommersant, the FAS has already begun testing against several independent suppliers in the Moscow region. The service will daily monitor the average cost of gasoline and diesel fuel in order to monitor the suppliers' execution of a moratorium on price increases. Currently, the government-set marginal profitability of independent gas stations is 4%, while selling prices for gasoline and diesel fuel are fixed at the level of June 2018.

Such margins create the conditions for the destruction of the independent sector, says Pavel Bazhenov, president of the Independent Fuel Union: networks will have enough money only to pay for logistics and bank acquiring.

“4% is a physically impossible value, which unambiguously pushes the gas station at a loss. If the government does not change its mind, then the probability of leaving the market for independent players will approach 100% ",

- says the expert.

Due to the dominance of VIOCs, an absurd situation was observed earlier in the market: wholesale prices could be higher than retail prices.

“There were even cases when independent players bought gasoline at the gas station of one of the VIOCs and resold them. But now, thanks to an agreement with the government, they were given to earn a reasonable amount of money, ”says Alexander Pasechnik from the Energy Security Fund.
The fact of inspections by FAS does not in itself frighten independent producers, all the more so since the problem with fuel quality does exist. Claims of retailers are more likely due to the fact that the agreements of the government with vertically integrated companies do not act de facto: either the oilmen retain high wholesale prices under various pretexts, or there is simply a shortage of goods on the exchange.

Even oil giants owning their own gas stations and refineries operate at a loss in the domestic market. The industry lost at least 150 billion rubles this year due to the government’s decision to freeze the cost of gasoline. True, high world oil prices with a weak ruble bring in good export earnings, which allow the VIOCs to compensate for the unprofitability of other links in the production chain.

Independent networks, which occupy 60% of the market by the number of gas stations, have no such source of income. At the same time, if we do not take individual regions of the Far East, their monopoly power over the retail market is exaggerated: 70% of the volume of fuel sold falls to the refueling of oil companies. Gas stations are not able to influence pricing in the market and are forced to accept the conditions that are dictated by large manufacturers.

“Independent gas stations in most cases are located in places where vertical companies will not go in principle - these are remote areas and rural locations,” explains Bazhenov.

Alexander Pasechnik disagrees with the alarmism of tankers.

“I do not think that there will be a total bankruptcy of gas stations, which they claim. Take the Central region, any motorway leaving Moscow, look at how many VINKs and how many independent gas stations. Independent gas stations can even be cheaper, ”the expert believes.

At the end of October, Rosneft was already trying to take advantage of the tense situation in the fuel market to its advantage, accusing independent gas stations of receiving super-profits and “aggravating the socio-economic situation in the regions." Rosneft’s counter-offer was to transfer the excise tax from the refineries to the retail network, that is, to further increase the tax burden on the independent sector.

However, the most questions are not to Rosneft, which in this case protects its commercial interests (even if it is through pressure on small gas stations), but to the government that implements an inconsistent tax policy in the fuel industry. The share of excise and mineral extraction tax in domestic prices for gasoline has been growing for many years and now exceeds 2/3, while export deliveries are encouraged by a tax maneuver and a weak ruble.

Only in spring, when the actions of the authorities caused a sharp jump in fuel prices, the government began to look for a way out of the situation. The most sensible solution would be to abandon the plan to increase excise taxes and reduce the overall tax burden on refineries and retail, but this would violate the integrity of fiscal interests of the budget. As a result

instead of deep reform of the fuel market, regulators chose the most primitive and harmful tool - administrative regulation of prices.

And this, as we know, is a much stronger incentive for the development of the black market than the imaginary monopolism of independent gas stations.