BP Zambia Plc, the country's biggest oil marketing company (OMC), is being sold as BP Africa quits five African countries to focus on refining and marketing investment, the company spokesperson confirmed yesterday.

Stockbrokers Zambia Limited, the sponsoring broker for BP Zambia Plc, issued the first cautionary announcement concerning the sell of 75 per cent stake of BP Africa.

BP Zambia Plc controls about 60 per cent of the total domestic oil marketing sector and is a key supplier of oil and lubricants to the mining sector.

In a statement issued to The Post yesterday in response to a press query, director for communications and external affairs Sam Mupanemunda said BP Africa would sell its franchises in Namibia, Malawi, Tanzania, Zambia and Botswana while focusing on refining and marketing investment in South Africa and Mozambique.

"BP has announced to governments and employees in the countries of Namibia, Malawi, Tanzania, Zambia and Botswana that it is to sell the marketing businesses in these countries," Mupanemunda said. "This follows a strategic review by BP into its refining and marketing businesses in southern Africa which showed the company should focus on those countries which offered the greatest synergies with its supply portfolio which are Mozambique and South Africa."

On the future of the employees in the affected countries, Mupanemunda said BP Africa would want to ensure that its employees continued to contribute to the success of the businesses.

"It is the intention of BP to sell the businesses as going concerns with physical assets, customer contracts and committed and skilled workforces, which would provide the purchaser with a solid platform to grow and develop their business in line with the strong economic outlook in the region," he said.

Mupanemunda said, "it is too early to comment at this stage" as to how long the transaction for the sale of three quarters of BP Africa would take.

And BP Africa's chief executive Sipho Maseko told governments and employees in South Africa and Mozambique that the company would stay in the two countries.

Maseko said BP Africa would be investing into growing the market share and grow BP value chain position.

"I would like to stress that BP is and will stay committed to Africa," said Maseko. "We have significant operations in Angola, Mozambique and South Africa and in Algeria, Egypt and Libya. We will continue to grow and invest in those markets, especially in the value chain infrastructure. We have discussed with the South African and Mozambique governments our desire to remain, and invest in, these two countries where we prefer to see our operations grow significantly."