After failure, compromise. To lower the price of fuel paid by motorists, the government first planned to authorize resale at a loss on September 16. Refusal on the part of distributors, who did not want to market their petroleum products at a price below that at which they had purchased them. On Tuesday, September 26, supermarket and hypermarket brands finally committed to generalizing sales at cost price until the end of the year in their service stations, that is to say without profit.
Nothing is specified on the amount of the discount that this will represent for the consumer. And for good reason, the net margin of distributors – that which they will give up – is confidential data. According to the oil industry, prices could fall by 1 to 2 cents per liter, knowing that unleaded 95 jumped 10 cents in four months, to 1.97 euros per liter as of September 22.
In the E.Leclerc and Carrefour stations, sales at cost price will start Friday September 29 and will be valid every day. The two groups announced it Tuesday afternoon on the social network X (formerly Twitter). Without even waiting for the meeting organized later in the day by the Prime Minister, Elisabeth Borne, with distributors and refiners. The system will be applied two weekends per month in the Casino, Cora and Intermarché brands, and at least one weekend per month for Système U and Auchan.
The government now expects around 120,000 commercial operations at 4,000 stations. For its part, after systematic discounts at the pump in 2022, it has intended a check for 100 euros for the lowest-income workers in 2023 and intends to renew it next year. Furthermore, since February, the oil company TotalEnergies has capped the price at 1.99 euros in its approximately 3,400 service stations. That’s about a third of the country’s installations.
Gross refining margins
Due to a lack of sufficient resources, some independent pump attendants explain that they will not be able to apply this or that rebate. They hope to obtain “compensation for the loss of income linked to customers who will leave to refuel elsewhere”, declares Francis Pousse, their representative at the Mobilians professional union. On Tuesday, the executive instead increased from 10 million to 15 million euros a fund dedicated to helping them with projects, for example for electric charging stations.
All this does not eliminate the question of gross refining margins, for which the government is procrastinating. In mid-September, the Minister of the Economy, Bruno Le Maire, said he was ready to target “excessive profits” in this domain. In mainland France, the operators TotalEnergies (in Gonfreville-l’Orcher, Donges and Feyzin), Esso (in Gravenchon and Fos-sur-Mer) and Petroineos (in Lavéra) are concerned. Volatile, these margins reflect the difference between the value of refined products compared to the initial value of crude oil. As of September 22, they reached an average of 114 euros per tonne. Almost five times more than in April. After deducting various costs, the net margin is within. A jump, which is explained in particular by a tension on available refining capacities and by an increased need for imports.
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