British Petroleum Co. PLCs blockbuster agreement Tuesday to acquire Amoco Corp., the largest industrial merger in history, isnt expected to face serious antitrust hurdles. Observers suggest, however, that U.S. regulators could require the combined company to divest certain downstream refining and marketing operations in the central U.S. Ironically, the proposed merger would reunite a portion of the John D. Rockefellers Standard Oil Co. empire that was broken up under the Sherman Antitrust Act in the early 1900s. BP 11 years ago acquired Standard Oil of Ohio, one of the companies created by the breakup; Amoco, formerly named Standard Oil Co. of Indiana, was another.
The $47.9 billion marriage, which would make BP-Amoco the worlds third largest oil company (behind Royal Dutch Shell Group and Exxon Corp.), is likely to be the first of several mergers in the petroleum industry. Low oil and natural-gas prices and growing competition from nationally owned oil companies have put a premium on operating efficiency, which mergers can help achieve.