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JSE listed Grindrod Limited (GND), the integrated logistics and shipping business, has agreed to sell a 50% interest in Cockett Marine Oil (Cockett) to Vitol, the largest independent energy trading business in the world.

The consideration amount is undisclosed and the transaction is subject to competition commission approval.

Cockett is one of the leading value added resellers and physical marine fuel suppliers in the world with a network of offices across Europe, Americas and Far East providing a global service to shipping clients.

Cockett is developing a network of physical supply operations in strategic locations delivering approximately five million tonnes of marine fuels annually at competitive prices whilst guaranteeing quality of service and product.

“Vitol is the ideal partner to support Cockett's global growth strategy”, said Karl Beeson, Managing Director Cockett Marine Oil.

Further to this transaction, the companies have formed a joint venture company called Leopard Tankers and will build four medium range product tankers in Korea which will deliver in the first half of 2013. The ships will be commercially operated within the Vitol Group.

Martyn Wade, CEO of Grindrod Shipping, said: “This investment represents the ideal partnership of an experienced ship owner with a first class commercial operator having access to a substantial cargo base. The ships represent cutting edge design and incorporate the latest engine technologies allowing significant savings in fuel consumption and running costs. We believe this partnership is an exciting platform for future expansion with the ability to rapidly scale up the investment model as opportunities develop.”

Ian Taylor, President and CEO of the Vitol Group, said: “We are pleased to have signed this agreement with Grindrod. In January we acquired an interest in their Maputo coal terminal and created a coal trading joint venture. Now we have broadened our relationship with the purchase of 50% of Cockett, one of the leading value added resellers of marine fuels, and our joint agreement to build 4 new product tankers. These are all important additions to the Vitol Group and sources of future growth.”

This announcement follows the finalisation of the agreement effective 1 January 2012 in which Vitol will acquire from Grindrod a 35% interest in the company which owns the Maputo coal terminal concession. In addition Vitol and Grindrod announced their intention to combine their respective sub Saharan coal trading businesses (65% Vitol / 35% Grindrod). - I-Net Bridge